Honeywell Aerospace and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are collaborating on a project to scale a novel hydrogen fuel storage solution for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones. The project, called Fuel Additives for Solid Hydrogen (FLASH) Carriers in Electric Aviation, aims to prototype and support the commercialization of a cartridge-based hydrogen fuel storage system.
Electric UAVs have gained popularity in industrial applications such as surveying, maintenance, and security due to their efficiency, reliability, and precision. However, battery-powered electric UAVs have limitations when it comes to long-range and heavy payload applications. Currently, long-range drones are powered by combustion engines, which have issues with noise, vibration, and emissions.
The NREL-Honeywell Aerospace collaboration seeks to demonstrate that hydrogen can be a viable solution to address these challenges. The FLASH system combines efficient and long-lasting hydrogen storage with a fuel cell that continuously converts hydrogen to electricity to power the UAV’s flight. This approach would enable long-range flights without the carbon emissions associated with combustion engines.
The key breakthrough of the FLASH technology lies in its solid material that rapidly releases hydrogen gas as a fuel. This material has a high hydrogen capacity and can operate at low temperatures, making it versatile for industrial hydrogen delivery requirements. Unlike bulky compressed gas tanks, the FLASH hydrogen storage technology can be bundled in a single, swappable cartridge, providing dramatically longer flight times for UAVs.
Honeywell Aerospace, which has already developed solid-state cartridge fuel systems for drones, is excited about the potential of the FLASH technology. By partnering with NREL, they aim to scale up and commercialize this innovative hydrogen fuel storage solution for UAVs.
The collaboration between Honeywell Aerospace and NREL is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office through its Technology Commercialization Fund. The project aligns with the growing demand for clean and efficient energy solutions in the UAV industry, enabling the expansion of applications and capabilities for these versatile aerial vehicles. With the FLASH technology, hydrogen could revolutionize the performance and environmental impact of electric UAVs, opening up new possibilities for industries that rely on drone technology.
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