Thursday, October 15, 2009

UAV Revolution update

Fresh from a great lecture last night on exponential rates of improvement in information systems by futurist Ray Kurzweil, and only 2 days remove from a post on the revolution in the performance and use of UAVs, I get a note in my inbox this morning. It's a press release announcing a new small UAV endurance record leveraging a breakthrough in fuel cell technology. Navy's ONR is a partner. Draw your own conclusions about where this is leading.

Without further adieu, here you go:


DATELINE: SOUTHBOROUGH, MA; Protonex Technology Corporation (LSE: AIM: PTX and PTXU), a leading provider of advanced fuel cell power systems, today announced that the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), through a program sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), has documented a flight endurance record on their small, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the Ion Tiger, utilizing a highly advanced fuel cell system from Protonex. The Ion Tiger UAV flew for over 23 hours, setting an unofficial endurance record for fuel cell powered flight, driven by the latest generation of Protonex' UAV power system.

The 23+ hour duration of the Ion Tiger flight far surpasses the longest previous small UAV flight achieved using any technology. By incorporating the Protonex power system, the Ion Tiger was able to demonstrate seven times the endurance capability of advanced batteries. The Protonex UAV system that was used in the Ion Tiger demonstration is a high performance, ultralight proton exchange membrane [PEM] fuel cell system, coupling stack technology that can achieve 1,000 watts per kilogram with advanced balance of plant components.

With the successful completion of this major milestone, Protonex is planning to continue transitioning this advanced power source into small UAV products with specific payloads and mission requirements for both military and commercial applications. The endurance capabilities proven in this program were previously achievable only with larger scale, more costly UAVs. Protonex is now confident that new critical missions can be achieved by smaller, more cost-effective UAV platforms that incorporate its advanced power systems.

"This impressive 23-hour record flight milestone represents yet another successful collaboration with the NRL and is a culmination of all of our combined efforts to date," stated Dr. Paul Osenar, Chief Technology Officer, Protonex. "We share the ONR's vision towards bringing quiet electric propulsion and long endurance to today's small UAVs and to extend the capability to the warfighter."

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