Long Endurance Flying Technology Prototype

Please see the video below for a description of my fuel cell controller (so far) for a remote controlled plane. A fuel cell provides much greater energy density than a battery, so for long endurance it is far superior (hours). Hopefully, with a bit of refinement I'll have the system flying in my SkyWalker X8 in the spring.

 Feel free to comment, I look forward to sparking some interest!

 

Simon

 

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Comment by Morli on December 20, 2013 at 1:29pm

Good luck and share us your maiden flight with the fuel cell.

Comment by Crispin on December 20, 2013 at 5:27pm

Very interesting. How would you carry the hydrogen weight / capacity or container?) and what is the consumption like? 

Can man-in-the-street get hydrogen? 

Comment by Josh on December 20, 2013 at 6:16pm

You can make hydrogen using electrolysis, some people think it is too dangerous. I have never done it but it looks like if you are aware of the properties of the gasses and how to properly handle them then it is relatively simple. If the cell uses liquid hydrogen that makes it more complicated though. Don't know if you could do that.

I would be sure too that if you can buy a fuel cell you can get fuel at the same shop.

Comment by Mark on December 20, 2013 at 6:37pm

Hi Simon, a very interesting post.  Very much look forward to updates on your progress.  

I note that the amp rating volt curve on the H100 looks caps at circa 17v/12A.  This looks ideal for cruise speed for light weight endurance style planes however space may be an issue in these planes?  Also, my guess is your prop size in the video looks like it may pull well north of 12A at higher RPM necessitating the need for the hybrid system you mentioned?

In summary, keen for you to outline your game plan re plane, setup, etc?

Kind regards

Mark

Comment by Simon Howroyd on December 21, 2013 at 1:47am

Hi all, thanks for the comments,

Hydrogen can be generated easily using an electrolyser (one of these fuel cells in reverse). I'm using one of these. There are of course other methods. Gaseous H2 is much the way to go for this application, liquid would prove to be too heavy due to all the safety ancillaries you would need to vent the boiling off H2, which would then be dangerous near so many electronic circuits (in my opinion).

The rated max output is 120W, which is 12v at 10A. Sustained is 100W (so you're not destroying the cell) so probably around the 14v 7A mark. Should be just enough to cruise from test flights I've done monitoring power, cutting it fine though. At worst it will be a range extender in this first proof of concept prototype, 95% fuel cell and 5% battery, to pluck some numbers out of the air.

The bench test is more for the academic side, o it isnt the final motor, ESC & prop choice I'll be using. Also, in the hybrid the fuelcell will be 12v or 14v down regulated to match a 3 or 4 cell LiPo. A touch inefficient, but more simple on the RC side which is one of the main aims.

There is a bit more info on another video on my personal DIYDRONES page.

Simon

Comment by Crispin on December 21, 2013 at 2:30am

I know you can make it DIY style but assumed you would need quantities which would make the DIY route slow/not-really-worth-it.

What is the weight of the cell and what, at your cruise speed, would the consumption be? I'm trying to understand how this would supplement the main battery (in a hybrid solution) compared to just piling more LiPos into the mix. 

It is a pretty interesting idea to add to the RC world though. I'm thinking about the guys in South Africa and Namibia doing the anti-poaching flights. They would benefit from ideas like this - long slow flights.

Comment by Simon Howroyd on December 21, 2013 at 2:51am

Yep that's a good market for it certainly! My cruise power at the moment is between 90-130W depending on how I fly and the weather conditions.

In terms of how it links in hybrid, just do a quick google search for the wiki on hybrid powertrains, it explains it well there. Piling more LiPos will be more weight efficient to a point, but then it will become too heavy. Hydrogen has a far greater energy density than a LiPo, so if you are wanting to fly for 10 hours say, hydrogen will be ok, LiPo too heavy.

Quantities needed aren't huge. You can buy it but it isn't too easy to get hold of because it's a flammable gas which is hard to store with no residential uses. Not too dissimilar to propane 50 odd years ago but now we all have that for the BBQ and my car is powered by it!

I must highlight that this is research, so on the technology readiness level (TRL) it is quite low, so don't expect it to work well or be in the shops tomorrow. We are certainly moving forwards rapidly though, and I'll keep posting to let you know how it's coming along!

Comment by RCvertt on December 21, 2013 at 2:02pm

Very good work being done. I'll keep an eye on progress.

Comment by Jethro Hazelhurst on December 21, 2013 at 2:26pm

This is a very interesting technology Simon and I am keen to hear more. Hydrogen-oxygen is certainly an ideal fuel, with energy densities far greater than any batteries, the problem is that there is a limited discharge rate and the fact that fuel cell systems are heavy.

What would be interesting is a combination of fuel cells and ultra-capacitors: http://cleantechnica.com/2013/10/14/lithium-ion-batteries-vs-fuel-c...

This is also a fantastic read What Are Batteries, Fuel Cells, and Supercapacitors?: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/cr020730k

Comment by Crispin on December 21, 2013 at 6:04pm

so if you are wanting to fly for 10 hours say, hydrogen will be ok, LiPo too heavy.

That's the part I was looking for :)

I know precious little about it so I find this very interesting. Will follow your progress on it.

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