NanoDynamics, Inc. announced that its subsidiary, NanoDynamics Energy, has received a one-year, $1.78 million grant from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to develop an innovative solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) system that will be used as a main power source for tactical unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The grant, received in December, will immediately fund the working partnership between NanoDynamics Energy and ONR in developing a flight-weight system with a 300-watt power supply for the propulsion of the UAV, as well as the operation of its ancillary sensors and communication systems.
“This program will capitalize on the recent technical breakthroughs we have demonstrated in small, lightweight, high power density systems for soldier-carried applications,” said Dr. Caine Finnerty, vice president of fuel cells at NanoDynamics Energy. “Our efforts will be focused toward scaling up this technology while maintaining the efficiency and mass characteristics required for a flight-weight SOFC.
“Earlier battery and fuel cell systems posed limitations on both sensor system weight and power, as well as flight time,” Finnerty explained. “In addition, the fuel cells used previously were driven by hydrogen, which is not readily available in most tactical operation environments.“
NanoDynamics will apply its newest cell stack technology and fuel reforming capability to achieve the required system weight and efficiency goals of the UAV power system program. In addition, the group will capitalize on its recent success at the Department of Defense Research & Engineering’s (DoDR&E) Wearable Power Prize competition in reducing the weight and parasitic losses associated with a fuel cell’s control and support components, or balance-of-plant.
Ground-based system development and testing will advance throughout 2009, and will include work by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in integrating the fuel cell with the aircraft, as well as developing its high-performance air pump. The NRL will also conduct a flight test program, currently planned for 2010.
“Once refined, this system will provide a solution for military UAVs by creating a lightweight platform capable of powering more complex devices and exceptional flight times, factors which are currently in high demand,” said Paul DeWald, NanoDynamics Energy lead engineer for the program.