BirdEye 650LE Mini-UAV Uses Fuel Cell to Fly Six Hour Missions

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Above: Using a New Fuel Cell Technology, IAI Malat Extends mini-UAV mission Endurance to six hours. Photo: IAI

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has successfully integrated hydrogen proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell system extending the flight endurance of the Birdeye 650 mini UAV to 6 hours – more than doubling its endurance with lithium batteries. The fuel-cell equipped mini-UAV has been given the designation Birdeye 650 LE. The Aeropak PEM fuel cell developed by Singapore based Horizon Energy Systems (HES) weighs about the same as the rechargeable batteries currently powering the mini UAV, therefore maintaining the take off weight of the BirdEye unchanged at 11 kg. This weight includes the payload carried by the Mini-UAV – a miniature Micro-POP or STAMP mini-payload weighing up to 1.2 kg. The BirdEye’s mission range remains 20 km – dictated by the line-of sight datalink and typical flight altitude. The following video shows clips taken by the BirdEye’s stabilized payload in day and night.

HES provides quiet and reliable electric propulsion, extending the flight durations of mini UAS by several orders of magnitude. Its energy source comes in the form of portable and hot-swappable chemical fuel cartridges.

“The Aeropak is a game-changing propulsion power system.” Says Gareth Tang, Managing Director of HES, “The advantages it brings are beyond power, weight and energy, since it impacts on mission operation modes. Our new fuel cell system reduces the number of take-offs while simultaneously expanding mission radius and operation coverage, reducing casualty, and easing logistical burden and cost”. Prior to the launch of the Aeropak, extended flight endurance capabilities were restricted to larger, more costly UAS platforms, mainly due to limitations of their battery power source. Now with a smaller, more flexible and cost-effective fuel cell power solution, mini-UAS can undertake sophisticated missions such as persistent surveillance, reconnaissance (ISTAR), patrol and convoys escort, and other special tasks.

BirdEye 650 in flight. Photo: IAI