A hydrogen fuel cell-powered ScanEagle unmanned aircraft system (UAS) completed its first flight test, airframe manufacturer Insitu said Thursday.
The collaboration between Insitu, Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and United Technologies (UTC) took UTC’s 1500 Watt (2 HP) fuel cell and integrated it with NRL’s hydrogen fueling solution into a ScanEagle propulsion module, which was integrated into the ScanEagle UAS at Insitu’s facilities in Bingen, Wash.
“Fuel cell technology contributes to Insitu's goal of increasing reliability and reducing operating costs. Additional benefits of the technology are an increase in ScanEagle's payload capacity and a simplification in support logistics," said Insitu President and CEO Steve Morrow.
“We hit all expected performance targets, and data from the flight test will drive further system improvements,” added Insitu Chief Technology Officer Charlie Guthrie.
Looking forward, Insitu is collaborating with the Air Force Research Lab to flight test a fuel cell on the Integrator UAS later this year.
“Fuel cell technology will improve significantly in the future,” said Insitu Chief Engineer Jeff Knapp. “Today’s internal combustion engines, especially two-stroke technology, are well optimized. Fuel cell technology has room for growth, and that will provide an opportunity for continued efficiency improvements and weight reduction.”