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Small Unmanned Air Vehicle Achieves Record Flight Time Using Hybrid Fuel Cell/Battery Energy Storage System
October 31 2007
AFRL engineers, in conjunction with Small Business Innovation Research partners AeroVironment (AV), Protonex Technology (PTX) Corporation, and Millennium Cell (MCEL), successfully flight-demonstrated Puma, AV's hand-launched small unmanned air vehicle (SUAV) that gets its power from a hybrid fuel cell/battery energy storage system. Puma flew for 7+ continuous hours on power supplied by PTX Corporation's PTX.L fuel cell system. The hybridized proton exchange membrane fuel cell employs a lithium ion battery to provide peak power during takeoff and dash maneuvers; the fuel cell recharges the battery and provides continuous steady-state power for the plane and payload during cruise flight. MCEL provided a fuel cartridge of sodium borohydride (chemical hydride), which provided the fuel necessary for the fuel cell system's 7-hour, 3-minute flight.
The duration of Puma's flight represents a substantial increase in flight time for this class of SUAV. The standard Puma has a flight time of 2.5 hours on rechargeable batteries, while other electric SUAVs used by the military have flight times ranging from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. The Puma SUAV delivers advanced flexibility and endurance, with an adaptable design that permits the addition of custom payloads in lieu of the air vehicle's standard configuration of color and infrared cameras. In addition to being easy to deploy and use, Puma allows operators to view both stationary targets and moving targets. The platform provides real-time intelligence via persistent low-altitude reconnaissance with a low noise signature.
The hand-launched Puma weighed 14 lbs, including its onboard fuel cell system and single onboard camera. Future flight demonstrations will seek to extend the plane's flight time, reduce its weight, and provide room for a full payload.
For additional information on this technology contact AFRL/PR email@example.com, (937)255-3428. To receive more information about AFRL, visit the Homepage at www.wpafb.af.mil/afrl. (PR-S-07-16)
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About AeroVironment, Inc. (AV)
AeroVironment is a technology solutions provider that designs, develops, produces and supports an advanced portfolio of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and electric transportation solutions. Agencies of the U.S. Department of Defense and allied military services use the company?s electric-powered, hand-launched unmanned aircraft systems extensively to provide situational awareness to tactical operating units through real-time, airborne reconnaissance, surveillance and communication. Multiple government agencies have helped to fund the development and demonstration of Global Observer, a hybrid-electric, stratospheric UAS designed to provide affordable, persistent reconnaissance and communication over any location on the globe. Switchblade is a loitering munition designed to provide a rapid, lethal, pinpoint precision strike capability with minimal collateral damage. AeroVironment?s electric transportation solutions include a comprehensive suite of electric vehicle (EV) charging systems, installation and data services for consumers, automakers, utilities and government agencies, power cycling and test systems for EV developers and industrial electric vehicle charging systems for commercial fleets.
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