Inside Unmanned Systems

FEB-MAR 2018

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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AIR POWER SYSTEMS 64 February/March 2018 unmanned systems inside Hydrogen-run systems are also very quiet, Hayes said, making it possible for the UAS to glide into an area at a lower altitude undetect- ed, which isn't really an option with a drone powered by a combustion engine. This is not only useful during military applications, but also various commercial applications such as wildlife monitoring and investigation. Insitu will now begin working with the latest fuel cell model from Protonex, which was re- leased in December, and has plans to test it with a client interested in the technology later this year. The upgraded fuel cell propulsion system features a new membrane electrode assembly (MEA) design that increases power density. "You learn the most by doing the work and getting out there and trying to find out where you're having challenges," Hayes said. "You tweak the system and you repeat it over and over again. We've done test f lights to prove the technology is reliable and viable. The next logi- cal step is to get out into the field and put it to work in real world situations in the dust and the dirt and the cold and the changing altitude. Throw it in the operational environment so it experiences all the wear and tear of when you use it day in and day out and see where it fails. From there we can determine how to make the system more robust so at the end of the day we have a polished end product we can distribute to all our customers." The Need for Infrastructure While the benefits are certainly there, support- ers of these systems have one big challenge to overcome: access to hydrogen. Even though there's plenty of hydrogen available, there's no- where for drone operators to go to fill up their tanks, like they would with propane or gas, Yearling said. There needs to be an infrastruc- ture in place to support the use of hydrogen, whether it's for cars, drones or other industries. That might mean stations where people can go to fill tanks or something that delivers full tanks to users and takes away empty ones, which is a FACTORING WEIGHT AND COST IF YOU'RE FLYING A SYSTEM that has both a fuel cell and a fuel tank, it's going to weigh slightly more than a battery, PINC CEO MATT YEARLING said, but you're still getting greater power density. So while it might be a little heavier than the battery, the battery operated drone would fl y less than a third of the time as the hydrogen powered drone. Cost is another consideration, Yearling said. Because there's not as much demand for these systems yet, they're likely to cost more, though it's diffi cult to know how much they cost in relation to batteries. "The yardstick is your experience on charging batteries today," he said. "If I asked you 'HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO CHARGE A DRONE?'" you wouldn't know because you don't think about it. You just plug it in and charge it so you don't know how much that costs compared to hydrogen. It's very obvious what it would cost for hydrogen and what fuel costs are per hour of operation because it's more tangible. You have to buy it like you buy propane. That's some of the cost equation that needs to be worked out for those looking to adopt such technologies." Photos courtesy of Intelligent Energy and PINC Solutions. to buy it like you buy propane. That's some of the cost equation that needs to be worked out for those looking to adopt such technologies." RIOUS OPTIONS Intelligent Energy off ers a variety of fuel cell solutions, including stacks for integration into third- party systems or complete systems with or without hydrogen storage. POWERED BY HYDROGEN Intelligent Energy's air cooled fuel cells provide clean power and longer fl ight times for drones than batteries. HYDROGEN POWERED Fuel Cell propulsion systems for drones

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