Ballard Power Systems’ subsidiary Protonex has secured purchase orders from the US Navy for the delivery of 13 new fuel cell propulsion systems for installation on-board its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Protonex had previously been supplying proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell propulsion systems for the US Navy’s Ion Tiger fuel cell-powered UAV programme since 2006.
The company is now delivering a variant of its 600W PEM fuel cell propulsion system for the subsequent Hybrid Tiger UAV programme.
Protonex Unmanned Systems vice-president Phil Robinson said: “We have been working with the US Navy for a decade to optimise our fuel cell propulsion system and deliver key benefits, including long range, quiet operation, high reliability, minimal vibration and low maintenance.
“It is exciting to put our innovative design to the ultimate test in rigorous operating conditions with an important customer.”
Deliveries of the fuel cell propulsion systems are expected to be carried out this year.
Protonex’s rugged UAV propulsion systems have been specifically designed to function in all types of environments and at high altitudes.
They are used by the US Department of Defense (DoD) to increase flight duration and range, while simultaneously reducing audible noise during operation.
The Hybrid Tiger UAV has been developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and is primarily used to explore new power system technologies for UAV propulsion applications.
Protonex’s high-efficiency fuel cells are expected to provide the drone with greater endurance than the current 26-hour period that was initially demonstrated by Ion Tiger in 2009.