Successful Test Flights On The Boeing Insitu ScanEagle UAV
Protonex, a subsidiary of Ballard Power Systems, announced that they have successfully powered test flights on the ScanEagle UAV. This power test included the Company’s proton exchange membrane fuel cell propulsion system.
“These test flights have successfully demonstrated the integration and operation of our fuel cell propulsion system as well as the high pressure hydrogen fuel tank,” said Paul Osenar, President of Protonex. “The tests also documented acoustic footprint reduction that will enable mission routes that take the ScanEagle closer to its targets. In addition, test flights confirm that our fuel cell propulsion system offers power during flight that can be used to support greater payload diversity. When combined with improved reliability and other advantages over internal combustion systems, fuel cells are proving to be a tremendous fit for UAVs.”
There are a few key advantages of the Protonex fuel cell propulsion modules over traditional internal combustion engine propulsion systems. Advantage include significant improvement in the expected MTBF (mean time between failures) of up to 5x; silent operation; 100% throttle flexibility, including mid-air start-stop capability; and use of existing JP8 fuel in ground refueling systems.
Peter Kunz, Insitu’s Chief Technology Officer noted, “Insitu continues to progress toward our goal of offering all-electric power and propulsion system options for Insitu platforms. Now in developmental testing, the Protonex fuel cell system has exceeded our power requirements and has integrated very well with the initial target aircraft systems and with general unmanned aerial system, or UAS, operations.”
Insitu’s ScanEagle is a versatile platform with multiple payload capabilities. Low-cost, high-definition imaging and 800,000+ flight hours, makes this one of the most successful UAV platforms to date. The ScanEagle is 1.55 meters long, with a wingspan of 3.11 meters. It features a maximum takeoff weight of 22 kilograms, with an endurance capability of more than 24-hours. It can fly at a maximum speed of 41.2 meters per second, reach a ceiling of 5,944 meters.