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Small UAV Again Achieves Record Flight Time Using Protonex Fuel Cell System Technology

The Puma in action.
by Staff Writers
Southborough MA (SPX) Nov 30, 2007
Protonex Technology announced that the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and development partner AeroVironment have documented a successful, record flight on a small, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) utilizing a highly advanced fuel cell system from Protonex. AeroVironment's "Puma" UAV system flew continuously for over seven hours and was powered by the latest generation of Protonex' ProCore UAV fuel cell system.

The duration of this most recent demonstration flight represents a substantial increase in flight time for this class of small UAV. The standard Puma has a reported flight time of approximately 2 hours on rechargeable batteries, while other electric UAVs used by the military have flight times ranging from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. The 7+ hour duration of the Puma flight using Protonex fuel cell power far surpasses the longest previous Puma flight achieved by AeroVironment using any technology.

Protonex has focused its ProCore UAV system developments primarily on existing UAV platforms like the Puma, which is an established military platform capable of meeting the stringent requirements for takeoff and landing, robustness, portability, and the ability to fly in a wide range of weather conditions - all characteristics typically deficient in 'experimental' sail planes occasionally used for fuel cell demonstrations.

The Protonex ProCore UAV system has a very low noise profile and can provide up to five times the energy density of advanced military batteries, addressing the rapidly growing segment of electric military and commercial UAVs designed for specialty missions such as surveillance, search and rescue, chemical-biological monitoring, and other long- endurance specialty missions.

The ProCore UAV system is a high performance, ultralight fuel cell system, coupling fuel cell stack technology that can achieve 1,000 watts per kilogram with an advanced chemical hydride fueling solution. With further anticipated improvements to its ProCore UAV system, Protonex expects even greater flight times.

Commenting on the latest achievement of the ProCore UAV fuel cell system, Scott Pearson, CEO of Protonex, said:

"This unprecedented UAV flight time demonstrated on the Puma platform represents another significant milestone in the progress we have made on our UAV power systems. This achievement comes as a direct result of our focused effort, working with AeroVironment and the AFRL to advance UAV endurance and payload capacity well beyond what is achievable with existing battery and other fuel cell platforms. We look forward to continuing this considerable progress with our partners to extend the reach of UAV technology to other military and commercial markets."

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