Ion Tiger fuel cell unmanned air vehicle completes 23-hour flight

October 13, 2009
This photo shows the Ion Tiger in flight. The 550-watt fuel cell is show in the box in the lower left corner. Credit: Naval Research Laboratory

The Naval Research Laboratory's Ion Tiger, a hydrogen-powered fuel cell unmanned air vehicle (UAV), has flown 23 hours and 17 minutes, setting an unofficial flight endurance record for a fuel-cell powered flight.

The test flight took place on October 9th through 10th at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The Ion Tiger fuel cell development system team is led by NRL and includes Protonex Technology Corporation, the University of Hawaii, and HyperComp Engineering. The program is sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

The electric fuel cell onboard the Ion Tiger has the low noise and signature of a battery-powered UAV, while taking advantage of hydrogen, a high-energy fuel. Fuel cells create an electrical current when they convert hydrogen and oxygen into water, with only water and heat as byproducts. The 550-Watt (0.75 horsepower) fuel cell onboard the Ion Tiger has about 4 times the efficiency of a comparable and the system provides 7 times the energy in the equivalent weight of batteries. The Ion Tiger weighs approximately 37 pounds and carries a 4 to 5 pound payload.

Small UAVs are growing in importance for naval missions, as they provide capabilities ranging from surveillance collection to communication links. Electric UAVs have the additional feature of being nearly undetectable from the ground. Due to the high energy in the fuel cell system onboard the Ion Tiger, it is now possible to do long endurance missions with an electric UAV, thus allowing a larger cruise range and reducing the number of daily launches and landings. This provides more capability while saving time and effort for the crew.

In 2005, NRL backed initial research in fuel cell technologies for UAVs. Today, says NRL's Karen Swider-Lyons, "the long endurance flight was made possible by the team's research on high power, efficient fuel cell systems, lightweight hydrogen-gas storage tanks, improved thermal management, and the effective integration of these systems."

technology is being developed to impact the operational spectrum of technologies including ground, air and undersea vehicles and man-portable power for Marine expeditionary missions. "The Ion Tiger successfully demonstrates ONR's vision to show how efficient, clean technology can be used to improve the warfighter's capabilities," comments ONR's Michele Anderson.

Source: Naval Research Laboratory (news : web)

Explore further: NRL demonstrates fuel cell-powered unmanned aerial system

Related Stories

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, ...

Surveillance vehicles take flight using alternative energy

March 30, 2009

Nearly undetectable from the ground, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are widely used by the military to scan terrain for possible threats and intelligence. Now, fuel cell powered UAVs are taking flight as an Office of Naval ...

NRL's XFC UAS achieves flight endurance milestone

August 6, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has completed a successful flight test of the fuel cell powered XFC (eXperimental Fuel Cell) unmanned aerial system (UAS). During the June 2 flight test, the XFC UAS was ...

Recommended for you

Magnetic fields provide a new way to communicate wirelessly

September 1, 2015

Electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego demonstrated a new wireless communication technique that works by sending magnetic signals through the human body. The new technology could offer a lower power ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

PPihkala
not rated yet Oct 13, 2009
That would make a good electricity source also for an el bike. But probably the cost is prohibitive.
RayCherry
not rated yet Oct 14, 2009
Commercial production will reduce the costs, with some of the usual compromises on quality/reliability, but with the advantage of making this technology widely available and providing the navy versions with supplementary income and research support. An important step for fuel cells ... the doors are definately opening.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.