Central regions | Technology & innovation

New ultralight power system developed for robots and drones

30 Mar '21
National Research University MPEI and BMPower (Skolkovo) have developed an ultra-light power system based on hydrogen-air fuel cells with direct air supply. It is designed to supply power to light aerial and ground vehicles, robotic devices, telecommunications equipment.

According to the Euroconsult report, the drone market could reach $ 26 billion by 2025, and their applications will expand. This is the delivery of goods, emergency assistance, aerial photography, patrolling, monitoring objects and networks, processing agricultural land.

For mobile applications, such as UAVs, electric scooters, exoskeletons, it is important that the power system has a minimum weight with maximum energy intensity. It is this indicator that determines the useful life of the device before charging. Power systems based on hydrogen-air fuel cells with direct air supply show maximum specific energy characteristics: specific power - up to 1 kW / kg per fuel cell stack and specific energy for the system - up to 700 W h / kg. The specified energy consumption is 3-4 times higher than that of the best lithium-ion batteries, which multiplies the operating time of the device. So, for a UAV, this means a real increase in flight duration by 3-4 times. These indicators are comparable to UAVs with internal combustion engines, while the fuel cell power system has a minimum level of noise, vibrations and zero emissions of toxic substances, and also operates at temperatures up to 50 ° C.

To implement them in the device, it was necessary to solve complex problems in the field of electrocatalysis, new functional materials, power electronics, systems engineering, etc. For example, a high specific power of a fuel cell can be realized only by creating effective catalysts with a particle size of only 2-4 nm. Lightweight composite cylinders, together with gas fittings, are an important design element and make the overall power system lightweight.

For example, in the Drone for Monitoring application, a hydrogen-air fuel cell power system with a direct air supply with a power of 1 kW ensures the operation of a copter weighing up to 12 kg and a glider weighing up to 24 kg with a minimum noise level, low vibrations, infrared visibility and toxic emissions. This expands the potential areas of their application for power supply of light air and ground vehicles, robotic devices, and telecommunications equipment.
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