U.S. Navy sets UAV endurance record

May 13, 2013 at 2:31 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 13 (UPI) -- An ION Tiger unmanned aerial vehicle, using a new fuel system, logged record flight endurance, the U.S. Navy reports.

The UAV, flown by researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory flew their fuel cell powered UAV for 48 hours and 1 minute using liquid hydrogen fuel in a new, NRL-developed, cryogenic fuel storage tank and delivery system.

The previous record for the vehicle, using gaseous hydrogen stored at 5,000 pounds per square inch, was 26 hours, 2 minutes.

"Liquid hydrogen coupled with fuel-cell technology has the potential to expand the utility of small unmanned systems by greatly increasing endurance while still affording all the benefits of electric propulsion," said Karen Swider-Lyons, NRL principal investigator.

The Naval Research Laboratory said liquid hydrogen is three times denser than compressed hydrogen. The cryogenic liquid is stored in a lightweight tank, allowing more hydrogen to be carried onboard to increase flight endurance.

The flight using the new fuel system is more reliable than conventional hydrocarbon-fuel power systems and provides greater endurance than battery power, NRL said.

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