Timon Singh

Naval Research Laboratory Flies Their Hydrogen-Powered Ion Tiger UAV for Over 48 Hours

by , 05/15/13

Naval Research Laboratory, NRL, hydrogen fuel cell, hydrogen power, fuel cell, Ion Tiger UAV, UAV, hydrogen, liquid hydrogen,

A team from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have broken their own record after flying their hydrogen fuel cell powered-Ion Tiger UAV for an astonishing 48 hours and 1 minute last month. The UAV, which used liquid hydrogen fuel in its  new, NRL-developed, cryogenic fuel storage tank and delivery system, broke its previous record of 26 hours and 2 minutes which it set in 2009.

Naval Research Laboratory, NRL, hydrogen fuel cell, hydrogen power, fuel cell, Ion Tiger UAV, UAV, hydrogen, liquid hydrogen,

The NRL team used liquid hydrogen, which is three times denser than 5000-psi compressed hydrogen, allowing for more fuel to be carried on-board. This and the craft’s high quality, lightweight insulated flight dewar for the cryogenic fuel all helped to increase the UAV’s flight endurance.

“Liquid hydrogen coupled with fuel-cell technology has the potential to expand the utility of small unmanned systems by greatly increasing endurance while still affording all the benefits of electric propulsion,” said Dr. Karen Swider-Lyons, NRL principal investigator in a statement.

The team is now addressing the logistics of “in-theater supply” which would see  in-situ manufacture of LH2 for use as fuel. All of this would be stored thanks to an electrolyzer-based system which would require only water for feedstock and electricity, possibly from solar or wind, to electrolyze, compress, and refrigerate the fuel.

+ Naval Research Laboratory

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