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Fuel Cell Powered UAV Completes 23-hour Flight, posted in Fuel Cells, Hydrogen Fuel, Transportation.

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Fuel Cell Powered UAV Completes 23-hour Flight

News » Energy | Biofuels | Environment | Hydrogen | Solar | Transportation | Wind
October 22nd, 2009 - View Comments

Fuel Cell Powered UAV 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.

YouTube: ION Tiger Fuel Cell UAV | More Videos

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.

What do you think?

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  • Bob

    I want one! Of course, you have to actually separate the hydrogen and store it in the tank before using it, unlike our on demand hydrogen generators, but the emissions being pure water is great, and quite planes are important with this use.

    They would have to pack some pretty hefty batteries in their if they were going straight electric, so a fuel cell makes sense…

  • Larry

    This would go well with our invisible UAV that we are now flying. It’s the first one has passed several advanced tests and if our visual camo system continues to improve we would have a great solution for many problems.

    Our UAV could be scaled to match the power system instead of doing it the other way ’round.

  • Benji 4 Hydrogen

    That’s excellent! I used to build UAV’s at a factory in San Diego. The one we built was only 5 pounds and battery powered, but this new hydrogen fuel cell UAV sound awesome. 23 hours! That’s pretty amazing.

  • Uncle B

    Freight, carried by H2 blimps, that use the H2 for fuel as well! Cheaper than rail? perhaps not, but certainly a way to move heavy weights – tanks, guns, into otherwise inaccessible spots if you were to fight a WWII style “Battlefield” war somewhere? More likely handy for installing Wind Turbines wherever in heck you want them! Moving prefab eco, econo, enviro, Survival Shelter homes to remote but favorable locations, and a way to move out of cities’ centres and get back to the land in the coming greatest recession of all times hiding in the troughs of the next economic down cycle, where the dollar is predicted to collapse, and the Yuan expected to take over as “Currency of International Trade” and America goes on a diet, no longer able to command 80% of the world’s resources with a “dead on the water” over-printed dollar!

    We will see massive changes, and much that appears hair-brained today will gain astounding practicality, including anything powered with any other than oil, as the Asian fact, and demand from them will have driven oil’s price through the roof! America will be green because America’s oil wells are dry – no other reason! We will embrace fantastic engines such as found in the Fuel cell / electric plane because we will still have Solar, Wind Wave, Tidal, Hydro, and geo-thermal sources at our disposal, and even Nuclear may see a revival, and Electricity will overcome internal combustion in the new age, by force of circumstance, not choice. Expect to see more not less fuel cell technologies, and learn to love it too! It is the future .

  • joe daks

    I built UAV’s in England 40 years ago and used 50cc Chain saw motors with large wooden propellers and a chicken stick to start the motor, the spy camera was similar to a single photo shot Brownie mounted under belly and we sold these planes to middle East Countries.

    We used very thin marine ply covering foam core shaped wings and body of the plane, which were really over sized model Aircraft, things have changed a great deal from the humble radio controlled UAV’s to Fuel Cell Technology…

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