Horizon’s hydrogen fuel cell pack system for mini unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could mean saved lives. Because the AEROPAK as the system is called, is capable of increasing the time and distance of UAV flights, they will be able to do more reconnaissance without returning to base. In military situations, that could mean saved lives.
Horizon Energy Systems, the Singapore company behind the AEROPAK technology is a subsidiary of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technologies. The latter company is behind the Hydrofill fuel cell refueling station that was reviewed last May.
The core of the technology is the PEM (Polymer Electrolyte Membrane) fuel cell power solution. The fuel cells are air cooled and self-humidified which makes them useful in a wide variety of applications including stationary power storage, fueling UAV’s and electric cars, and running toys.
The AEROPAK is composed of a power system that works with Horizon’s own dry-fuel cartridges. All you do is connect the two and add water. Each dry-fuel cartridge is good for 8 hours of flight as opposed to two hours using lithium batteries. According to the company one power system and three cartridges (plus three bottles of water) are equal to sixteen lithium batteries and two battery chargers. Each cartridge is also refillable.
Of course if you have battery chargers you also have to have electricity. All though the there are the Bourne Energy Backpack Power Plant Type 2, a portable hydropower station for the military and the GREENS portable solar panel/battery system that can be used for power, Horizon’s “just add water” system is much smaller, easier to use, and lighter to carry.
Over the past two months Horizon’s AEROPAKs have been used in UAVs in South Korea, Russia, and Israel. The last UAV flight in Israel combined the AEROPAK system with an Elbit Systems Skylark® I-LE (top photo) unmanned aircraft system (UAS). The Israeli flight was one of the first to conduct a full test flight “including an operational payload, take-off and recovery.”
Horizon has already developed fuel cell powered generators and storage devices for stationary use at power plants. You can also get the previously mentioned Hydrofill system to recharge your own small fuel cell batteries at home.
Currently, the AEROPAK is used in UAVs and UASs to great success. Variations on the AEROPAK are already happening. Horizon used fuel cells in a Riversimple concept demonstrator car. The car was able to travel 240 miles on one small tank of hydrogen that weighed 2.2 lbs. At 2.2 pounds carrying a spare for another 240 miles would be a cinch.