Thanks to new fuel cells, drones will be able to carry out longer missions. With the new fuel cells developed by an EU-funded project, unmanned aerial vehicles can stay up to five hours in the air.  The project SUAV micro tubular solid oxide fuel cell power system development into a mini-UAV) was launched in support of the European Clean Sky initiative. It aimed to develop components of fuel cell cheap, in order to use the batteries to fuel in oxide solid (SOFC) for portable applications or not.

New microtubular fuel cells

SUAV s’ is focused on the design of SOFC with tubular geometry, as well as their integration in a hybrid feed system comprising a microtubular SOFC stack and a battery. Tubular designs are advantageous because it is much easier to separate the air from the fuel.

During the design of the fuel cell and the fuel processing system, the weight volume requirements imposed by the unmanned aircraft system represented a major challenge. The project partners have therefore endeavored to design a generator, electricity lightweight, compact and flexible.

The developed hybrid system comprised a microtubular SOFC, a battery, a processing device for generating reforming gas and other equipment. For fuel, SUAV chose to use propane because it provides more energy than hydrogen and because it is available throughout Europe. Fuel cells such as SOFCs are used because they can convert reformation gases into electricity, unlike other types of fuel cells that require pure hydrogen. This makes it possible to reduce the complexity and size of the fuel reforming system.

The development of the individual components of the electricity generator was accompanied by the modeling of the SOFC stack and associated components. On this basis, the researchers developed 2D and 3D models of fluid dynamics in order to predict the temperature distributions. At the levels of each microtubular cell and of the complete cell, for which thermal stresses were also calculated. Given the stringent volume and weight requirements, the project members used partial catalytic oxidation as a reforming technique. It produces more power per unit volume and weight and does not require water.

The item a fuel cell generator of 280 W for extended flight missions. Beyond aerospace applications, the developed technology can also be used for portable power supplies, on-board power supplies for vehicles and demonstrators for pedagogical purposes. Among other benefits, it could allow longer flight times for detection of forest fires.

Beyond aerospace applications, the developed technology can also be used for portable power supplies, on-board power supplies for vehicles and demonstrators for pedagogical purposes. Among other benefits, it could allow longer flight times for detection of forest fires. Beyond aerospace applications, the developed technology can also be used for portable power supplies, on-board power supplies for vehicles and demonstrators for pedagogical purposes. Among other benefits, it could allow longer flight times for detection of forest fires. Among other benefits, it could allow longer flight times for detection of forest fires. Among other benefits, it could allow longer flight times for detection of forest fires.

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Thanks to new fuel cells, drones will be able to carry out longer missions. With the new fuel cells developed by an EU-funded project, unmanned aerial vehicles can stay up to five hours in the air.  The project SUAV micro tubular solid oxide fuel cell power system development into...