System could triple flight endurance of small UAVs and power special-mission vehicles

Protonex last week unveiled its Procore unmanned air vehicle fuel-cell propulsion system.

The Massachusetts-based company has developed the fuel-cell system, which could be used to power UAVs designed for surveillance, chemical-biological monitoring, border patrol and other special missions, with help from the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and Air Force Research Laboratory.

The NRL has completed two flight tests using a prototype power system comprised of Protonex fuel- cell technology and a pressure vessel containing gaseous hydrogen (Flight International, 16-22 May). "The progress we have made on our UAV power platform already provides the opportunity to double or triple the flight durations of a typical small UAV," says Protonex chief executive Scott Pearson.

Procore will differ from the NRL powerplant in that it uses a solid storage system, which the company calls a chemical hydride fuelling solution.

Hydride compounds can absorb gaseous hydrogen into a solid structure and its release mechanism is either fluid- and/or temperature-based. The company claims the hydride system can provide energy densities four times greater than batteries for small UAVs.

Aerovironment UAV 
© Aerovironment

Aerovironment's UAV has already demonstrated fuel-cell power

Source: Flight International