Two months after achieving a 7h fuel cell-powered flight by its Puma unmanned air vehicle, AeroVironment (AV) has extended the UAV's endurance by more than 28% to over 9h using Protonex Technology's Pulse fuel cell battery hybrid energy storage system.

Conducted under AV's phase two small business innovation research contract with the US Air Force Research Laboratory for the development of advanced energy storage and propulsion technologies for UAVs, the 9h flight saw the Puma transmit live streaming video from its two-camera payload system. The Puma has a wingspan of 2.59m (8.5ft), is hand-launched, can fly autonomously and uses satellite navigation.

"We are delighted with the performance of AV's fuel cell hybrid-powered Puma," says AFRL First Lieutenant Don Erickson. "The successful extended duration capability demonstrated through this programme has the potential to expand the utility of hand-launched UAS to address a variety of missions performed by operational units around the world," he adds.

AV developed the battery pack, power electronics and controls used in conjunction with Protonex's Pulse system. The previous 7h flight used the Protonex ProCore fuel cell system.