Design and Testing of a Vertical Take-Off and Landing UAV Optimized for Carrying a Hydrogen Fuel Cell with a Pressure Tank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Flight endurance is still a bottleneck for many types of unmanned air vehicle (UAV) applications. While battery technology improves over the years, for flights that last an entire day, batteries are still insufficient. Hydrogen-powered fuel cells offer an interesting alternative but pose stringent requirements on the platform. The required cruise power must be sufficiently low and flying with a pressurized tank poses new safety and shape constraints. This paper proposes a hybrid transitioning UAV that is optimized towards carrying a hydrogen tank and fuel cell. Hover is achieved using 12 redundant propellers connected to a dual Controller Area Network (CAN) bus and dual power supply. Forward flight is achieved using a tandem wing configuration. The tandem wing not only minimizes the required wingspan to minimize perturbations from gusts during hover, but it also handles the very large pitch inertia of the inline pressure tank and fuel cell very well. During forward flight, 8 of the 12 propellers are folded while the tip propellers counteract the tip vortexes. The propulsion is tested on a force balance and the selected fuel cell is tested in the lab. Finally, a prototype is built and tested in-flight using battery power. Stable hover, good transitioning properties, and stable forward flight are demonstrated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-285
Number of pages7
JournalUnmanned Systems
Volume8
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • fuel cell
  • hybrid UAV
  • hydrogen
  • pressure cylinder
  • pressure tank
  • UAV

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