New joint fuel cell development will extend flight times for surveillance drones

Published on Tue 14 September, 2021

  • Initial phase to focus on next generation product development of IE-SoarTM UAV fuel cell modules
  • Project will develop fuel cells ready for MoD operational capability

Loughborough Wednesday 15 September 2021 – Intelligent Energy (IE), the manufacturer of the world’s lightest and most power dense solution for UAVs, announces today the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) will be funding via the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), phase one of a project (“Project Pegasus”) which will scale fuel cells for MoD operational capability within three years.

As part of phase one of the project, the funding will look at the next generation product development of the company’s IE-SoarTM 800W module, which is currently available to commercial UAV operators who need higher endurance solutions for their missions. The next generation product will be designed with a level of robustness required for military environments.

Additionally, phase one will look at sourcing suitable expeditionary hydrogen refuelling stations for onsite hydrogen generation and refilling in remote locations – eliminating any requirement for fuel logistics.

Jonathan Douglas-Smith, Aerospace Specialist at Intelligent Energy said: “Our IE-SoarTM modules are to be the focus of the development work. The MoD currently do not use PEM fuel cells in their operations. This project enables us to work with the UK MoD to develop a next generation lightweight PEM fuel cell product which satisfies defence requirements.”

He continues: “The project will also investigate suitable hydrogen refilling stations for refuelling in situ, which is a critical requirement set by the UK MoD and the key to start exploiting the capability of the technology. The product focus is on our IE-SoarTM modules for UAVs but we expect there to be cross over with our other product ranges, including the IE-LiftTM modules which are a zero emission portable power solution.”

NavyX, the innovation arm of the Royal Navy, will be managing this project with funding from the Royal Navy, the Army, StratComm, the Royal Air Force and the MoD’s Defence Innovation Fund.

Phase one of the project will run for eight months under the DASA contract. The exploitation plan anticipates trials of the IE-Soar TM 800W integrated into military products next year subject to funding being available for phase two of the project. Final MoD operational deployment is expected in 2023.

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

More information about fuel cell power for UAVs can be found here: https://www.intelligent-energy.com/our-products/uavs/

 

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.