NRL demonstrates fuel cell-powered unmanned aerial system

November 22, 2005

The Naval Research Laboratory, in collaboration with industrial partners, demonstrated an unmanned aerial system (UAS) flight solely powered by fuel cell technology. The flight of the 5.6-pound 'Spider-Lion" lasted 3 hours, 19 minutes and consumed 15-grams of compressed hydrogen gas.

The project is a joint venture between NRL's Chemistry and Tactical Electronic Warfare Divisions and Protonex Technology Corporation. The flight was conducted with L-3 - BAI Aerosystems at their Ragged Island facility on Maryland's Eastern Shore under weather conditions of 65 degrees F, moderate winds, and light rain at takeoff.

The 100-watt fuel cell system was designed and constructed at NRL largely using commercially available hardware and a fuel cell stack and components developed by Protonex. The "Spider-Lion" UAS was developed by NRL as a high-impact research platform for testing fuel cell technology. Research and development continues aimed at developing a fuel cell system capable of powering small military platforms currently in the field or in advanced development stages requiring extended operation that is not achievable using current battery technology.

Source: Naval Research Laboratory

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