Fuel cell and hybrid power systems offer compelling value for UAVs whose missions demand greater runtime than batteries can support.
UAV Fuel Cell Power Solutions
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are making dramatic changes to many industries. From infrastructure and construction site inspection to agriculture and disaster response, ‘drones’ permit us to acquire and process data faster, with greater resolution, and at a lower cost per hour than ever before.
Drawing upon a decade of successful UAV fuel cell experience by Protonex Technology Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ballard Power Systems, Ballard offers a complete UAV fuel cell solution. Unmanned systems powered by fuel cells operate longer than their battery counterparts, with the same benefits of low thermal and noise signature. Users see improved reliability over small internal combustion engines, providing safe and low maintenance operation.
Benefits of hydrogen fuel cell power systems:
- Extend mission time and distance (3x typical) due to superior energy density
- Enable beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) missions for dramatic operation expense reduction
- Provide clean, quiet and reliable operation
- Reduce lithium battery charging and transport obstacles
Ballard UAV fuel cell systems have flown in platforms from Insitu, Aerovironment, Lockheed-Martin, and others. First demonstrated and matured for use with defense UAV platforms, Ballard commercial UAV systems are proven performers: rugged, reliable, and lightweight. Designed for operation in environmental extremes, Ballard UAV power systems enable BVLOS missions in agriculture, infrastructure inspection, first responder reconnaissance, and more.
Key Facts About Hydrogen Powered UAVs
Hydrogen fuel cell UAVs typically include a combination of compressed hydrogen gas in a certified safe storage tank and batteries for peak power needs. Important features of hydrogen-powered UAVs include:
- Hydrogen is a safe and readily-available energy source
- Refilling is quick and easy – typically taking less than 5 minutes
- Lightweight, safe, and simple refueling and storage technologies developed for the automotive industry can be leveraged directly for UAVs
- Reduced noise, compared to internal combustion engines, results in lower acceptable flight altitudes and increasing sensor fidelity
- Fuel cells operate more efficiently at high altitudes than internal combustion engines, enabling effective use in mountainous regions
- Fuel cells produce no emissions and reduce or eliminate lithium battery disposal challenges and costs