Protonex to develop fuel cell power for small unmanned aerial vehicles

US-based Protonex Technology is to develop a robust, deployable pre-production fuel cell power system, designed for powering a small, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of extended flight duration and mission endurance.

Protonex will complete this work under an awarded $3.3 million contract from the Department of Defense, and will draw on continuing developments by Protonex of its unmanned power systems and UAV technologies.

Under the terms of this contract, Protonex will customize one of its fuel cell power platforms and will integrate it into a Puma-AE UAV provided by development partner AeroVironment. The resulting UAV is expected to enable new long-duration missions, not previously feasible with hand-launched UAVs powered by advanced batteries.

Protonex has already demonstrated its fuel cell systems for small UAVs through programs with the US Air Force Research Laboratory, Naval Research Laboratory and AeroVironment. Last year AeroVironment’s Puma UAV, utilizing a Protonex fuel cell system, flew continuously for more than 9 h – three to four times the endurance capability of its current rechargeable batteries.

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Energy storage including Fuel cells