Ballard Power develops fuel cell propulsion system for drones

5 January 2018 (Last Updated January 5th, 2018 12:04)

Canadian manufacturing company Ballard Power Systems has developed advanced high-performance fuel cell propulsion system to power unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Ballard Power develops fuel cell propulsion system for drones
Launching Insitu’s ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Credit: CNW Group/Ballard Power Systems Inc.

Canadian manufacturing company Ballard Power Systems has developed advanced high-performance fuel cell propulsion system to power unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The company has also secured a follow-on contract from Boeing subsidiary Insitu for further durability testing of the new 1.3kW fuel cell propulsion system. It is used to power test ScanEagle UAV flights.

ScanEagle UAV is a platform with multiple payload capabilities, including high-definition imaging. It comes at a lower cost than larger drone systems.

Ballard subsidiary Protonex Unmanned Systems vice-president Phil Robinson said: “The Ballard and Insitu teams have collaborated closely over the past several years to integrate our proven fuel cell technology into the industry-leading ScanEagle platform.

“This new fuel cell has the potential to deliver a range of benefits compared to the use of an internal combustion engine (ICE) to power the ScanEagle.”

“This new fuel cell has the potential to deliver a range of benefits compared to the use of an internal combustion engine (ICE) to power the ScanEagle.

“These benefits are likely to include an increase in reliability and available electrical power along with a simultaneous reduction in audible noise, thereby enabling lower altitude missions.”

The new fuel cell propulsion system offers a wide range of benefits, such as enhanced power density from a new membrane electrode assembly (MEA) design.

The system also has a reduced cost as a result of the new MEA, one-step fuel cell stack sealing process, and increased lifetime.

Rated power is increased without increasing size or weight of the system.

Fuel cell systems treble mission times compared to battery-powered UAVs.