The iRobot Scout, with a hybrid fuel cell/battery power system supplied by Adaptive Materials Inc, maintained a consistent speed of 3 mph (5 km/h) throughout the demonstration. In addition to powering the UGV for a record distance, the fuel cell also powered an on-board camera and a computer that reported speed, GPS and other critical data.
‘Demonstrating the duration capabilities of a UGV in a rugged, real-world environment is a critical milestone in aligning the Adaptive Materials fuel cells with the potential of UGVs,’ says Michelle Crumm, chief business officer. ‘On battery power, UGVs can only travel so far, or sit and sense for a limited period of time before the battery needs to be charged or replaced. By leveraging the proven, reliable power of an Adaptive Materials fuel cell, UGVs can achieve ultra-long duration and long-range missions.’
The AMI fuel cell consumed three 230 g (8 oz) canisters of store-bought propane during its long-duration demonstration. Throughout the demonstration, the fuel cell delivered 150 W of continuous power, with peak power output as high as 600 W.
For comparison, a typical UGV battery pack offers about 40 min of continuous power in similar conditions to those demonstrated at Camp Grayling. Adaptive Materials’ fuel cell delivered 18 times that amount of energy without having to stop and recharge, and for a fraction of the cost.
The UGV endurance demonstration was completed in partnership with the National Automotive Center (NAC), the US Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), iRobot and Camp Grayling.