Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Surveillance Vehicles Take Flight Using Alternative Energy

Date:
April 6, 2009
Source:
Naval Research Laboratory
Summary:
Nearly undetectable from the ground, unmanned aerial vehicles are widely used by the military to scan terrain for possible threats and intelligence. Now, fuel cell powered UAVs are taking flight to help tactical decision-makers gather critical information more efficiently... and more quietly. This latest technology merges two separate efforts -- UAV technology and fuel cell systems.

This photo shows the Ion Tiger.
Credit: US Naval Research Laboratory

Nearly undetectable from the ground, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are widely used by the military to scan terrain for possible threats and intelligence. Now, fuel cell powered UAVs are taking flight as an Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored program to help tactical decision-makers gather critical information more efficiently… and more quietly.

Piloted remotely or autonomously, UAVs have long provided extra "eyes in the sky" especially for missions that are too dangerous for manned aircraft. This latest technology is showcased by Ion Tiger, a UAV research program at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) that merges two separate efforts — UAV technology and fuel cell systems.

In particular, the Ion Tiger UAV tests a hydrogen-powered fuel cell design, which can travel farther and carry heavier payloads than earlier battery-powered designs. Ion Tiger employs stealthy characteristics due to its small size, reduced noise, low heat signature and zero emissions.

"Pursuing energy efficiency and energy independence are core to ONR's Power and Energy Focus Area," said Rear Admiral Nevin Carr, Chief of Naval Research. "ONR's investments in alternative energy sources, like fuel cell research, have application to the Navy and Marine Corps mission in future UAVs and vehicles. These investments also contribute directly to solving some of the same technology challenges faced at the national level."

Fuel cells create an electrical current when they convert hydrogen and oxygen into water and are pollution-free. A fuel cell propulsion system can also deliver potentially twice the efficiency of an internal combustion engine — while running more quietly and with greater endurance.

"In this size range, we are hopefully able to conduct very productive surveillance missions at low cost with a relatively small vehicle, and a high-quality electric payload," says NRL Principal Investigator Dr. Karen Swider-Lyons.

This spring, Ion Tiger's flight trial is expected to exceed the duration of previous flights seven-fold.

"This will really be a 'first of its kind' demonstration for a fuel cell system in a UAV application for a 24-hour endurance flight, with a 5 pound payload," says ONR Program Manager Dr. Michele Anderson. "That's something nobody can do right now."

In 2005, NRL backed initial research in fuel cell technologies for UAVs. Today, says Swider-Lyons, it's paying off with a few lessons learned from the automotive industry.

"With UAVs, we are dealing with relatively small fuel cells of 500 watts," she explains. "It is hard to get custom, high-quality fuel cell membranes built just for this program. So we are riding along with this push for technology from the automotive industry."

"What's different with fuel cell cars is that developers are focused on volume…so they want everything very compact," adds Swider-Lyons. "Our first issue is weight, our second issue is weight and our third issue is weight!"

Besides delivering energy savings and increased power potential, fuel cell technology spans the operational spectrum from ground vehicles to UAVs, to man-portable power generation for Marine expeditionary missions to meeting power needs afloat. In fact, it's technology that Marines at Camp Pendleton are using today to power their General Motors fuel cell vehicles.

Across the board, the Navy and Marine Corps are seeking more efficient sources of energy. ONR has been researching and testing power and energy technology for decades. Often the improvements to power generation and fuel efficiency for ships, aircraft, vehicles and installations yield a direct benefit to the public.

"ONR has been a visionary in terms of providing support for this program," says Swider-Lyons.

Other Ion Tiger partners include Protonex Technology Corporation and the University of Hawaii. NRL's work on UAVs also leverages funding from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Naval Research Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Naval Research Laboratory. "Surveillance Vehicles Take Flight Using Alternative Energy." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090330123225.htm>.
Naval Research Laboratory. (2009, April 6). Surveillance Vehicles Take Flight Using Alternative Energy. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090330123225.htm
Naval Research Laboratory. "Surveillance Vehicles Take Flight Using Alternative Energy." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090330123225.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Hundreds of Thousands Hit NYC Streets to Protest Climate Change

Hundreds of Thousands Hit NYC Streets to Protest Climate Change

AFP (Sep. 22, 2014) Celebrities, political leaders and the masses rallied in New York and across the globe demanding urgent action on climate change, with organizers saying 600,000 people hit the streets. Duration: 01:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Inside London's Massive Sewer Tunnel Project

Inside London's Massive Sewer Tunnel Project

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) Billions of dollars are being spent on a massive super sewer to take away London's vast output of waste, which is endangering the River Thames. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Washed-Up 'Alien Hairballs' Are Actually Algae

Washed-Up 'Alien Hairballs' Are Actually Algae

Newsy (Sep. 22, 2014) Green balls of algae washed up on Sydney, Australia's Dee Why Beach. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Was The Biggest Climate March In History Underreported?

Was The Biggest Climate March In History Underreported?

Newsy (Sep. 22, 2014) The People's Climate March in New York City drew more than 300,000 people, possibly a record-breaking number. Was the march underreported? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins