Fuel cells for UAVs

Protonex, an AIM-listed provider of fuel-cell systems, has received a $598,813 contract from the US Naval Research Laboratory to develop fuel cells for unmanned air vehicles.


Protonex, an AIM-listed provider of fuel-cell systems, has received a $598,813 (£362,670) contract from the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to develop fuel cells for unmanned air vehicles (UAVs).



The contract will focus on increasing the power density of the group’s existing Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell while also increasing the power output of the overall system. The resulting power output is expected to be 1.5kW, which will be double the existing system’s gravimetric power density.



The NRL plans to use the system on a UAV platform and hopes the increased power will provide additional manoeuvrability and payload capacity to enable military applications and increase mission capabilities. According to Protonex, its fuel-cell system will also offer NRL the benefits of lower heat and noise compared with internal combustion engines while providing five times the energy density over existing advanced batteries.



Dr Paul Osenar, chief technology officer at Protonex, said: ‘We are very fortunate to have the continued support and interest from the NRL and the Office of Naval Research. The team is excited to have this opportunity to continue to optimise our core technology by increasing the net power of our fuel-cell system while significantly improving the overall functionality of small UAVs.’