Intelligent Energy UAV fuel cells power fixed wing eVTOL endurance drone for the US Army
Published on Wed 8 July, 2020
- Zepher orders Fuel Cell Power Modules (FCPMs) for integration into custom design for a military application
- Intelligent Energy fuel cells achieve three times the flight duration compared to batteries
- Lightweight design means they can lift larger UAVs and carry heavier payloads
- 14 hour flight time for the UAV will be achieved
- Project to be funded through the US Army in support of a USASOC requirement
Loughborough, UK – 8th July 2020, Intelligent Energy, the UK fuel cell engineering business, announced today that US-based Zepher has purchased its 800W Fuel Cell Power Modules (FCPMs). The modules will be integrated into a custom-built electric Vertical Take Off and Land (eVTOL) UAV, which is being designed for the US Army.
As the leader in fuel cell power products for the UAV market, Intelligent Energy offers the lightest and most power dense, certified products available on the market. As well as their compact design, the products offer many advantages for commercial and military UAV users, including providing a solution to the current issue of endurance for companies that need longer flight times, like inspection services, parcel delivery and military applications.
Zepher is an innovative and rapidly growing aerospace and defence manufacturing company, aiming to solve complex problems for their customers. Delivering collaborative manufacturing, engineering, and full product realisation services, Zepher focuses on transitioning design solutions from prototyping into scalable and sustainable production and is well placed to lead this programme.
Based in Bingen, Washington, Zepher aims to have the UAV ready for Department of Defence applications within the first 12 months of the contract. Intelligent Energy’s products were selected because they can offer significantly longer flight time, operate quietly and require minimal maintenance. Once this first integration is completed, Zepher will have a design solution ready for initial production.
Lee Juby, Chief Sales Officer at Intelligent Energy said; “Many of our customers are choosing to integrate our FCPMs into eVTOL UAVs. We know the endurance gains for standard multirotor UAV designs are impressive, however, when integrated onto an eVTOL the gains are significantly more, fuel cells are very efficient in this scenario.
“In addition, our FCPMs are robust, reliable and fully certified so they are the ideal choice for Zepher for this project, which aims to have a design solution scalable for production once this first integration is completed.”
Rob Coatney, Lead Aerospace Engineer at Zepher, said: “Using Intelligent Energy’s Fuel Cell Power Modules will enable Zepher to create a VTOL UAS with better operational characteristics than one with an internal combustion engine, including improved reliability, increased durability, and reduced tactical signatures.”
The design will feature two 800W FCPMs which will be used together with an Intelligent Energy Power Path Module (PPM). A PPM connects the two 800W for a 1.6kW output.
Intelligent Energy and Zepher will each be exhibiting at AUVSI Xponential in Dallas, Texas, on the 5-8 October.
About Intelligent Energy
Intelligent Energy is focused on the development and manufacture of its Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell products for customers in the automotive, aerospace, generator, telecoms, materials handling and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sectors. The company is headquartered and manufactures in Loughborough in the UK, with additional offices and representation in the US, Japan, China and South Korea.
Founded in 2003, Zepher is a quality -centric comprehensive manufacturer with proven experience developing products in highly regulated industries. From turnkey autonomous system integration to ground support equipment and custom manufacturing, Zepher has the capabilities and agility to manufacture, integrate, test, and deliver complex systems on tight timelines. Visit zepherinc.com to learn more.
About Fuel Cells
Fuel cell technology is similar to battery technology in that individual cells are built up to give the desired power output. However, fuel cells do not run out of charge as batteries do and will produce power for as long as hydrogen fuel is provided to the cells. Hydrogen is readily available around the world, often generated using green energy.
Fuel cells are deployed in multiple applications where clean, lightweight, efficient and cost-effective power is required. Fast re-fuelling and lack of emissions makes fuel cell technology the immediate choice for forklift trucks and warehousing. Fuel cells are common place in clean construction and backup power for critical telecoms. Powering UAVs with fuel cells allows three times the flying time which gives significant advantages in applications such as aerial surveying and filming.
Zero emission hydrogen fuel cell technology will be preferred to battery technology in vehicles where rapid re-fuelling, high power and long range are important. Typical fuel cell applications include passenger cars, buses and trucks, along with smaller cars where a high availability is critical, e.g. taxis and shared vehicles.
FCEVs are expected to be an integral part of the connected and autonomous vehicle (“CAV”) revolution over the coming years.
Fuel cells are expected to become a dominant technology in de-carbonised aerospace.