Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hydrogen fuel cell doubles Skyblade UAV's endurance

The Skyblade 360 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) designed by Singapore based ST Aerospace achieved a record 6 hour flight endurance, when powered by a hydrogen-on-demand enabled fuel cell battery system.

The fuel cell system developed by HES Energy Systems and DSO National Laboratories doubled the UAV's flight endurance compared to a Lithium battery that usually powers it, enabling to fly up to 300 km.

The Skyblade 360 UAV and its fuel cell system were displayed on ST Engineering’s booth at the 2016 Singapore Air Show.

The Skyblade 360 mini unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system is designed for rapid mission deployment in support of military, civilian and scientific applications with fully autonomous flight operations.

The UAV having a length of 1.8 m (5.9 ft) and wing span of 3.0 m (9.8 ft), has a maximum take off weight of 9.0 kg (19.8 lb).

It has an operating altitude of 90-920 m (300-3000 ft) and a maximum speed of 35 kts.

The Skyblade 360 fuel cell system is extremely lightweight and compact in comparison to lithium batteries. Its 1L fuel cartridge holds a whopping 1000Wh of usable energy.

Unlike a typical hydrogen fuel cell, the system doesn’t store its fuel as pressurized hydrogen gas, but stores it as a solid chemical material - making it easy for end-users to handle in the field.

Since its founding in 2009 in Singapore, HES has been developing the world’s most advanced fuel cell systems. In the past years, HES was able to prove that its system was able to store 7% of its weight as hydrogen and a fuel utilization rate of close to 90%.

It took HES several years to achieve this performance. The company began its journey with various approaches and technologies including the use of costly Sodium Borohydride. The system designs based on Sodium Borohydride were complex, fragile, and came with many challenges for end-users.

In 2013 HES pushed forward with a new material and a highly simplified system. The patented hydrogen on demand technology now targets operational costs of just $10 per flight hour - making it a real option for UAV manufacturers.