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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ENGINEERING. PRACTICE. POLICY. 63 February/March 2018 unmanned systems inside quiet, and they last about five times as long as most small internal combustion engines be- tween overhauls." Hydrogen Adoption Rises PINC isn't the only company exploring the po- tential of hydrogen fuel cells. Both FlightWave Aerospace Systems and Insitu are testing these systems, one in a brand new drone and the oth- er in a proven industry staple. Startup FlightWave Aerospace began work- ing with Intelligent Energy a few years ago after Edmund Cronin, FlightWave's chief marketing officer, saw their system at a trade- show. Hydrogen is being used more and more as a power source in other industries, Cronin said, so it just made sense to incorporate it into the UAS the company is creating. The team also liked the idea of working with a green technology. The Jupiter-H2 UAS will be able to carry a kilogram of payload and f ly for at least a few hours. The Jupiter will have a swappable payload, Cronin said, and a bottom carbon plate that can be attached to the power source of the fuel cell. The sensors will be f lown on the bottom of the aircraft. Besides the fact the hydrogen system offers longer endurance and a green energy solution, Yearling also likes the added safety it provides. Refilling fuel tanks is safer than carrying around and swapping out lithium batteries, he said, especially in the types of environments his drones operate in. "It can f ly in environments that batteries probably aren't well suited for," he said. "I've f lown this system in cold storage without any problems. The way these fuel cells operate, they suck in oxygen and they suck in hydro- gen from the tank and across the membrane there's a chemical reaction. The waste product is water vapor. If you wave your hand across the exhaust you expect there to be more water vapor than there is. I expected there to be con- densation like when you walk outside on a cold winter day and you exhale. You couldn't even see the water vapor coming out of the unit. It's insignificant. This is a very friendly power source to the environment." Insitu has been working with Protonex for the last few years, and recently f lew one of the company's systems to demonstrate its benefits. One of the biggest of those benefits is reli- ability, said Andrew Hayes, Director of Insitu's Advanced Development Group. Internal com- bustion engines have a lot of moving parts and are pretty complicated. It's difficult to de- velop an affordable engine that has the power needed to operate a UAS but that is also light enough to fit inside one. Engines must also be maintained and eventually replaced, so using a system that doesn't need this level of attention has its advantages. Engines typically need to be overhauled every 200 hours of operation, Robinson said, while fuel cells typically go about 1,000 hours between servicing. Combustion engines also shake the plane, causing a back and forth vibration in the drone, Hayes said. This causes the sensors to shake, which could (and usually does) impact the qual- ity of any images or location information col- lected during a mission. Reducing the vibration enables the system to deliver better images and improves the accuracy of GPS locations. OUT OF SIGHT FLIGHTS FOR MANY INDUSTRIES, drones will provide the biggest benefi t when they have the ability to fl y beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). But even when the FAA approves these fl ights, it won't do much good if the systems don't have the endurance they need to complete the mission, said Phil Robinson vice president of Unmanned Systems for PROTONEX TECHNOLOGY CORP., A SUBSIDIARY OF BALLARD POWER SYSTEMS AFTER CORP. "If the system has to stay within line of sight the pilot can only inspect about a mile at a time. If he can fl y beyond line of sight, now he can go as far as the UAV can go without running out of power," Robinson said. "Well, if the battery is going to run down after a few miles, it doesn't buy him that much. But with a fuel cell power system, that UAV can fl y 100 miles now. That is a revolutionary change in this business model." HYDROGEN POWERED Fuel Cell propulsion systems for drones

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