October 11 , 07
Fuel Cell UAV has 10X Greater Flying Time

Engineers have unveiled a fuel cell-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can stay in the air much longer than existing machines.

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) team led by aerospace engineering professor Kwon Se-jin said the 2.5 kilogram unit stayed airborne on 500 grams of fuel for over 10 hours, giving the unit 10 times the endurance of conventional battery-powered UAVs.

The 80 centimeter-long, 150 centimeter-wide machine gets its power from specially processed sodium tetrahydridoborate (NaBH4) attached to a fuel cartridge, micro pump, speed controller and propeller.

"The energy output of the liquefied power source is roughly 10 times that of batteries, giving the new machine its long endurance capability," said Kwon.

Kwon said the new UAV, which is very maneuverable, will help extend operational use of existing short range machines. He said it can also it can be further developed to be used in robots.

Smaller-sized UAVs are making inroads around the world for police and military surveillance work.

The team said many countries are engaged in finding an efficient energy source for UAVs, although most have not been satisfactory. It said the United States has been experimenting with compressed hydrogen that is hard to refuel in the field, and does not sufficiently extend the range.