The U. S. Navy is planning to break current records with their hydrogen-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The Ion Tiger, when completed will be able to fly for 24-hours straight and carry a 5-pound payload.
In November 2008, I talked about the University of Michigan Endurance UAV which had just set the record for a hydrogen fuel cell unmanned aerial vehicle by staying aloft for 10 hours 15 minutes and 4 seconds. This flight beat similar UAV’s powered by lithium ion batteries by at least 5 times.
In regard to the Navy’s Ion Tiger it all comes down to weight. According to the NRL Principal Investigator Dr. Karen Swider-Lyons, “What’s different with fuel cell cars is that developers are focused on volume… so they want everything very compact. Our first issue is weight, our second issue is weight and our third issue is weight!”
The Ion Tiger will carry a 500-watt PEM fuel cell with high pressure, light weight hydrogen storage tanks. The goal of creating the Ion Tiger is surveillance in a stealth and pollution free manner. Here’s a video that shows the Ion Tiger in action.