EnergyOR, a Plug Power company -

MONTREAL - EnergyOr Technologies, a fuel cell energy developer, announced its fuel cell powered Faucon H2 UAV completed a 10-hour, 4-minute flight. From the press release, the Faucon H2 has a 3-meter (9.84 foot) wingspan, a 1.2-meter (3.93 foot) length and 9-kg (19.84 pound) mass and cruises at 65-100 km/h (40.38-62.13 mph).

After reading the release, I contacted EnergyOr President and CEO Michel Bitton. My question was simple: Can you elaborate on a potential road map for the fuel cell power technology and if you see it scaling up to serve light aircraft? Michel responded as follows:

With regard to a roadmap for fuel cell systems in UAS applications, I see them coming online fairly quickly in the UAS market because they address a serious limitation in existing small, electric UAS platforms, which is long endurance. Most UAVs in this class can fly for a maximum of 3 hours, and even this is under very favorable weather conditions. Further, as more and more payloads are developed with increased power demands, these flight times will decrease even further. A new standard is now being set for small, electric UAS flight endurance which is in the order of 8 to 10 hours, and these flight times are possible because of fuel cells.

For light, manned aircraft, I do not see this same void to be filled, so I do not think that fuel cells will have a big impact on propulsion systems for this market. With that said, EnergyOr is currently investigating fuel cell systems to power 20 kg (44 pounds) and 65 kg (143 pounds) electric UAS platforms, so we are moving in that direction.

UAVs, whether traditionally- or alternatively-powered, will occupy some of the same airspace we who pilot aircraft in the cockpit occupy, so it s incumbent upon us to make sure we understand as much as we can about the marketplace.

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