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Fuel Cells Create New Potential for UAVs, Other Critical Military Technologies

Lockheed Martin Stalker UAS

Lockheed Martin Stalker UAS

Modern defense strategies rely on the military’s ability to quietly and quickly obtain intelligence in harsh, dangerous settings.  These unmanned operations are run remotely, where the military is completely off-grid, away from reliable sources of power.

Unfortunately, batteries and generators – the typical sources of remote power – aren’t ideal for meeting the demands of modern technologies. Although batteries are the most common power source for most portable equipment that the military uses today, it’s not ideal for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or other technologies that enable soldiers to move quickly and quietly in dangerous settings.

Soldiers currently recover and re-launch an UAV several times during a single day..  Batteries simply don’t offer enough power for a long duration flight where cameras and other equipment – powered by the same battery as the UAV’s engine – are in use. These stops and starts are time consuming, costly and disruptive.

Lightweight, portable and powered by globally available propane, AMI’s RoAMIo Defender fuel cells are changing this reality, and providing a new, reliable power option to the military.

The U.S. Army currently has Defender fuel cells in the field in Afghanistan.  “Fuel cells aren’t new technology for the military,” explained Tom Koonce, program manager of Lockheed Martin’s Rapid Operation Programs.“While the rest of the world is catching up, the military is finding new ways to make portable, efficient power available to soldiers.  Fuel cells provide efficient electrical power  for modern military operations in situations where other power generation systems simply don’t work.

By converting to a Defender fuel cell to power mission-critical UAVs and associated technologies, the military is achieving unprecedented capabilities from its air, ground and logistics equipment.  Using a single fuel cell, extended capabilities include:

  • Longer UAV flight times
  • Continuous power for uninterrupted on-the-ground technology and equipment
  • Reduced weight and logistics burden – batteries are used for back up instead of primary power
  • Four times the power of traditional batteries and full capabilities farther out to the tactical edge of a fight, where technology can’t be supported by battery power alone.

In addition to the power needed to fly the UAV, the Defender integrated fuel cell system generates excess power that can then run added UAV payloads.  Using a fuel cell system, UAVs can now carry additional cameras and sensors that extend the military’s surveillance capabilities.