Surveillance and communication are the lifeline of the armed forces. These days they are utilizing small UAVs for naval missions. If the armed forces are using electric UAVs, they have the additional advantage. Electric UAVs can’t be detected from the ground. The Ion Tiger has just demonstrated the likelihood of a long endurance missions with an electric UAV. Naval forces can get a larger cruise range. Naval forces can reduce the number of daily launches and landings too. This increases the capability and yet naval crew can save on the time and effort fronts.
Protonex Technology Corporation proved instrumental in providing the right kind of technological know how. It is a leading provider of advanced fuel cell power systems. They have made an important announcement. According to them the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has attained a unique distinction of a flight endurance record on their small, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the Ion Tiger. This program was sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR). They have gone for a highly advanced fuel cell system from Protonex. This achievement is a first of its kind. The Ion Tiger UAV flew for over 23 hours. This is an unofficial endurance record for fuel cell powered flight.
The Naval Research Laboratory’s (NRL’s) Ion Tiger utilized a hydrogen-powered fuel cell and flew for 23 hours and 17 minutes. The test flight happened on October 9th through 10th at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The Ion Tiger fuel cell development system team has completed this project under the NRL, Protonex Technology Corporation, the University of Hawaii, and HyperComp Engineering.
The 23-hour flight of the Ion Tiger far outshines the longest previous small UAV flight achieved, driven by any technology. The Ion Tiger had utilized the Protonex power system. The Ion Tiger was able to demonstrate seven times the endurance capability of advanced batteries. Protonex is planning to expand its advanced power source for both military and commercial applications. Protonex is now convinced that new decisive missions can be achieved by smaller, more cost-effective UAV platforms that integrate its advanced power systems.
Dr. Paul Osenar who is the Chief Technology Officer, Protonex, expresses his thoughts, “This impressive 23-hour record flight milestone represents yet another successful collaboration with the NRL and is a culmination of all of our combined efforts to date. We share the ONR`s vision towards bringing quiet electric propulsion and long endurance to today`s small UAVs and to extend the capability to the warfighter.”
The Ion Tiger’s electric fuel cell propulsion system makes less noise. Its fuel cells generate an electrical current when they transform hydrogen and oxygen into water. Here the byproducts are water and heat only. The Ion Tiger is fitted with 550-Watt (0.75 horsepower) fuel cell that gives about 4 times the efficiency of a comparable internal combustion engine and the system provides 7 times the energy in the equivalent weight of batteries.