U.S. NIST First Responder Challenge competition awards Intelligent Energy second place for its fuel cell UAV power

Published on Thu 19 August, 2021

Loughborough, UK, 19th August: Intelligent Energy, the manufacturer of the world’s lightest and most power dense solution for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), has achieved second place out of more than 40 global entrants in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards of Technology (NIST) First Responder Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Endurance Challenge.

The UK fuel cell company entered a Gryphon hexacopter fitted with the IE-SoarTM 2.4kW fuel cell power module. Fuel cells offer significantly longer flight times for UAVs when compared with traditional battery power so are an ideal solution for commercial operators.

The challenge was scored against a series of criteria including safety, endurance, performance in flight, set up time and cost.

Intelligent Energy’s UAV achieved a flight time of 102 minutes (with 10% fuel remaining for emergency reserves) while carrying a 10lb payload to imitate a wireless signal transmitter that first responders would activate in a disaster situation should cell towers be out of action.

Jonathan Douglas-Smith, Aerospace Specialist at Intelligent Energy, said: “We know what our IE-SoarTM modules can achieve and taking part in this challenge is a great way for us to show industries like first responder and disaster recovery just how they can be applied to support rescue missions at times when endurance of the UAV would be critical.

“It has been a great project to work on and importantly showcases the capability of fuel cells.”

“Our grant programs and prize challenges help us make great leaps forward in solving public safety concerns by initiating collaboration with industry, academia and the public safety community,” said Dereck Orr, chief of NIST’s Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) division, which managed the challenge.

“We had over 40 entries, all of an extremely high calibre, and it has been encouraging to see potential solutions for our research. The challenge has helped advance our mission and UAS technology with the winning team surpassing 112 minutes of flight time for FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) Part 107 drone flights, which are systems weighing less than 55 pounds flown by certified drone pilots.”

Judges on the NIST panel included UAS subject matter experts, public safety agencies and members from the FAA.

Intelligent Energy can offer the same UAV used in the challenge to customers via a number of integration partners. The company is today (August 19) exhibiting its UAV products at AUVSI Xponential 2021 in Atlanta and can be found on the show floor in meeting room 5.

Visit the company’s product page or contact Intelligent Energy’s sales team for more details:

https://www.intelligent-energy.com/our-products/uavs/

You can watch the challenge video here: https://www.nist.gov/ctl/pscr/open-innovation-prize-challenges/past-prize-challenges/2020-first-responder-uas-endurance

NIST's PSCR division drives innovation and advances public safety communication technologies through cutting-edge research and development. NIST PSCR works directly with first responders and the solver community to address public safety’s urgent need to access the same broadband communications and state-of-the-art technologies that consumers on commercial networks now expect. Learn more about the NIST PSCR First Responder UAS Endurance Challenge and upcoming competitions on the NIST PSCR website.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

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.

www.intelligent-energy.com

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 and air are provided to the cell. 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 an excellent choice for forklift trucks and warehousing. Fuel cells are commonplace 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 SUVs, buses and trucks, along with smaller cars where a high availability is critical, e.g. taxis and shared vehicles.