Protonex Fuel Cells to Power Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

January 16, 2006 by Jeff Shepard

Protonex Technology Corp. was awarded a contract by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to develop power systems for long-endurance micro unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Under the terms of the contract, Protonex will develop compact fuel cell power systems with significantly higher energy density than batteries, enabling aircraft to fly for a significantly longer duration and carry greater payload.

This award follows Protonex' previous success in demonstrating UAV power systems with the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). In November 2005, the NRL flew the 5.6-pound ‘Spider-Lion' micro UAV for three hours, 19 minutes with a Protonex fuel cell power system fueled by compressed hydrogen as the sole source of power for the duration of the flight. This demonstrated the potential of fuel cells to offer a significant improvement over batteries for long- endurance UAVs, which are used by the military for surveillance, search and rescue, chemical-biological monitoring and other missions that require extended flight times.

As development of Protonex' UAV power system continues under the AFRL contract, the Company will replace the compressed hydrogen fueling system with an advanced chemical hydride fueling technology to achieve even higher energy densities and longer flight times. With this fueling technology, currently being developed by Protonex and its partners, the Company expects to achieve flight times of eight to 12 hours.

"The long-endurance UAV application complements the goals of other programs currently underway at Protonex and will leverage the progress Protonex has made on other product platforms," stated Paul Osenar, Chief Technology Officer, Protonex Technology Corp.. "As we continue to advance fueling technologies and field trial our systems with customers, we are breaking down the primary barriers to commercial market entry."