In a pioneering success by the P.I. Baranov Central Institute of Aviation Motors (CIAM) in Russia, the first hydrogen fuel cell powered CIAM-80 unmanned aircraft took off last week at a test flight facility near Moscow.
The CIAM-80 mini-UAV was powered by the ultra-light AEROPAK hydrogen fuel cell system designed by Horizon Energy Systems of Singapore. According to the CIAM specialists, “although the test flight only lasted several minutes, it opened a new era in the evolution of aviation power-plants, reviving research which had been interrupted in the 1990s. In the long term, this type of innovation could double the efficiency of aviation engines while simultaneously eliminating harmful emissions.
Horizon’s AEROPAK proton exchange membrane electrochemical system is specifically designed for mini-UAV propulsion, and was enough to power the electric motor on-board the CIAM-80 UAV. Designers used compressed hydrogen storage as a first step, and were successful in integrating the fuel cell power system cooling and complex control systems. Further tests of a UAV demonstrator aircraft are expected in order to confirm the efficiency of fuel cells for use in aviation.
“The AEROPAK fuel cell system from Horizon Energy Systems is currently enabling a number of electric-powered flight pioneers around the world. Small 5-10kg class electric powered unmanned reconnaissance aircraft which are already in use today are the first real-world commercial application for this technology,” said Gareth Tang, Managing Director of HES. “Due to the energy density advantage, electric powered aircraft could potentially fly much further using our hydrogen fuel cell solutions.”