On this Earth Day 2014, I thought it appropriate to talk about a fuel cell vehicle that observes the Earth. And that vehicle is the Stratobus, which is half-way between a satellite and a drone.
The Stratobus concept, created by the Thales Group, is powered by solar and hydrogen fuel cell. Onboard water and an electrolyzer system feed the fuel cell creating power for the airship’s electric motors.
According to the Thales Group, “StratoBus covers a wide range of potential applications, including border and maritime surveillance, boosting GSM network capacity for public events and GPS augmentation over areas of dense traffic.
“The platform itself is a high-altitude airship measuring 70 to 100 meters long and 20 to 30 meters in diameter. It will feature a number of technological innovations, in particular to make sure it captures the Sun’s rays in all seasons: a power generation system (coupling the solar panels to a solar power amplification system patented by Thales), an ultra-light reversible fuel cell for energy storage, etc.
“The StratoBus platform will require continuous significant energy input to offset the wind: two electric motors will automatically adjust their output power depending on wind speed (up to 90 km/h).”
In the years to come, as the fuel cell driven UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) market expands, one would expect that Stratobus will be in a good position to lead the pack.