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

Oct 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: Environmentally compatible organic solar cells

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NRL demonstrates fuel cell-powered unmanned aerial system

Nov 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, 1 ...

NRL's XFC UAS achieves flight endurance milestone

Aug 06, 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, ...

Recommended for you

Environmentally compatible organic solar cells

20 hours ago

Environmentally compatible production methods for organic solar cells from novel materials are in the focus of "MatHero". The new project coordinated by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) aims at making ...

Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

22 hours ago

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects—specifically, ...

Unlocking secrets of new solar material

22 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A new solar material that has the same crystal structure as a mineral first found in the Ural Mountains in 1839 is shooting up the efficiency charts faster than almost anything researchers have ...

Ikea buys wind farm in Illinois

Apr 15, 2014

These days, Ikea is assembling more than just furniture. About 150 miles south of Chicago in Vermilion County, Ill., the home goods giant is building a wind farm large enough to ensure that its stores will never have to buy ...

User comments : 2

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.

More news stories

Sony's PlayStation 4 sales top seven million

Sony says it has sold seven million PlayStation 4 worldwide since its launch last year and admitted it can't make them fast enough, in a welcome change of fortune for the Japanese consumer electronics giant.

Robotics goes micro-scale

(Phys.org) —The development of light-driven 'micro-robots' that can autonomously investigate and manipulate the nano-scale environment in a microscope comes a step closer, thanks to new research from the ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...