The US Naval research laboratory has awarded a contract to fuel-cell developer Protonex Technology Corporation to develop advanced fuel cell power systems for the navy’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Under the $599,000 contract, the company will produce a 1.5kV hydrogen fuel-cell system to power UAVs using the company’s proton exchange membrane technology.

The hydrogen fuel-cell system will be integrated into a small naval research laboratory plane and is expected to provide power output approximately equivalent to a 2hp engine at double the current system’s gravimetric power density.

The advanced power systems are expected to broaden the range of UAV mission capabilities as well as improve the climbing ability, manoeuvrability, dash speed, as well as additional payload capability of all UAVs fitted with the technology.