Unmanned Plane Powered By Fuel Cells

Hydrogen-powered flight is now officially a reality, at least for unmanned aircraft, as Horizon Energy Systems and Elbit Systems recently announced the successful completion of a test flight for Elbit’s Sklark Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) powered by Horizon’s Aeropak fuel cell system.

This flight, which took place in the airspace above Israel, is the first ever demonstrating fully operational unmanned system using the Horizon AEROPAK fuel cell power system, including take-off and recovery with an operational payload integrated onboard, according to Horizon and Elbit.

Skylark Test Flight

image via Horizon Energy Systems and Elbit Systems

The Aeropak fuel cell system effectively doubles the current endurance of the Skylark ILE, delivering 900Wh net usable energy per liter of fuel, which the companies say proves this system is suitable and rugged enough for military use. The Skylark ILE is a tactical man-portable UAS currently used in close range beyond-the-next-hill surveillance and reconnaissance missions by the military of several nations.

If these results hold up–and the overall system comes in at the right price point–it seems likely the U.S.military would be among those interested, as the Department of Defense and Department of Energy recently signed a memorandum of understanding stating their shared goal to accelerate clean energy innovations and enhance national energy security and both the Air Force and the Army appear to be making progress towards that goal.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

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