A team of Swiss aircraft designers are now flying a small model prototype of SmartFish, a lightweight and fuel-efficient hydrogen fuel cell-powered aircraft that's been in development for five years. So far the team has flown a radio-controlled test model of the aircraft they say will someday carry two people at 560 mph using less fuel than a car.
The HyFish prototype proves the concept of the plane's fuel-cell turbofan technology, working in concert with an aerodynamic configuration known as a lifting body, an innovative way of achieving lift with a reduced wingspan. Its makers say the plane's interior is unusually roomy, and its simplified construction with fewer moving parts will make it easier to build, with relatively low operating and maintenance costs.
Beyond the current radio-controlled airplane stage, the goal is to first create a smaller 20-foot personal jet that can carry two passengers, and later create a design that transports 20 passengers. Whether this technology can scale up to a full-size aircraft is anybody's guess, but on the SmartFish website there's a fascinating video of the prototype in flight.