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Ballard launches hydrogen fuel cell for UAV


April 29, 2019
By Wings Staff
Wings Staff

Topics
A BFD H2-6 multi-rotor UAV, powered by Ballard’s FCair-1200 fuel cell system, undergoing field trials. (Photo: CNW Group/Ballard Power Systems)

Ballard Unmanned Systems, a subsidiary of Ballard Power Systems Inc., launched the FCair fuel cell product line, described by the company as a complete long-duration fuel cell power solution for commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The launch took place at the AUVSI Xponential Annual Conference and Expo 2019 in Chicago.

FCair includes a hydrogen fuel cell power system, hydrogen storage vessels, pressure regulators, refueling solutions and hydrogen gas supply. The product line supports commercial UAV manufacturers and operators in the delivery of fuel cell-powered UAV systems.

“We have worked to focus UAV propulsion systems on high-value commercial applications,” said Phil Robinson, VP and GM, Ballard Unmanned Systems. “This year’s AUVSI Xponential Conference marks a milestone, with our display of the first fully integrated commercial multi-rotor drone or UAV utilizing Ballard’s FCair solution, including the support components and systems that make this integration possible.”

Robinson continues to explain the company sees significant long-term market opportunities for zero-emission commercial drones and, ultimately, vertical takeoff and landing vehicles and autonomous flying cars.

The Ballard product line includes FCair-600 and FCair-1200 liquid-cooled fuel cell power systems, with built-in hybrid battery control and charging, and delivering 600 and 1,200 watts of power, respectively.

These systems are currently in ongoing field trials, having previously been proven in harsh environments and at high altitudes. The FCair family also includes lightweight Carbon Overwrapped Pressure Vessels (COPVs), which the company explains to be hydrogen fuel tanks based on recent advancements in the automotive and aerospace industries. Lightweight pressure regulators, which reduce the 6,000 psi hydrogen storage pressure to 20 psi pressure needed for a fuel cell, and which include features to assure safe and predictable operation, are also being introduced.

“Over the past several AUVSI Xponential conferences we have presented on a range of topics, including hydrogen power and hydrogen storage technologies,” said Dr. Jim Sisco, technical lead, Ballard Unmanned Systems. “As the technology and markets matured, we have engaged with hydrogen safety experts from the automotive and aerospace markets to ensure that, as an industry, we are providing systems that are not only high-performance and easy-to-use, but that are also safe from the ground up.”