ScanEagle Unmanned Aircraft Flies with Hydrogen Fuel Cell

10 Apr 2012


Insitu Inc., a subsidiary of the Boeing Company, has announced that its ScanEagle® unmanned aircraft system (UAS) successfully completed its first hydrogen-powered fuel cell flight in a two-and-a-half-hour flight test. The test reached all expected performance targets and the recorded data will be used as a basis for further improvements.

ScanEagles have been in combat service with the US Navy for a number of years (image).

According to Insitu’s CEO Steve Morrow, fuel cells hold a number of advantages for the UAS and the benefits will grow as fuel cell technology continues to improve. The fuel cell system used in the UAS costs less than current gas and heavy fuel solutions and also weighs less than traditional engines. As a result payload capacity can be increased while costs are reduced. Fuel cell technology also offers increased reliability and the potential for simpler support logistics.

The hydrogen-powered fuel cell solution was implemented as a modular upgrade to the runway-independent, expeditionary Group 2 ScanEagle UAS. The collaboration between Insitu, Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and United Technologies (UTC) took UTC's 1.5 kW PEM fuel cell and integrated it with NRL's hydrogen fuelling solution into a ScanEagle propulsion module. The propulsion module was then fully integrated into the ScanEagle UAS at Insitu's facilities in Bingen, Washington in the US.

Insitu is collaborating with the Air Force Research Lab to flight test a fuel cell on the Integrator UAS later this year.

Source: Insitu Inc.

Image: A ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle launches from the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (Official US Navy Imagery)


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