Researchers developing the next generation of unmanned aircraft for aerospace giant Boeing have linked up with Sheffield-based green energy specialist ITM Power.
The Madrid-based researchers have signed a deal which involves ITM, of Brightside, in developing a mobile refuelling system, producing hydrogen gas from water to power experimental, remotely controlled aircraft.
The drones can be used in a range of defence and civil applications, including surveillance for millitary, border control and law enforcement agencies, as well as for communications and monitoring pipelines, power lines and environmental conditions. ITM will develop an electrolyser, using its proton exchange membrane (PEM) technology, which will be designed to generate up to 2.1 kilogrammes of hydrogen a day, to fuel experimental aircraft that the researchers are building.
The hydrogen could be used as a fuel for conventional internal combustion engines.
Alternatively, it could be used in a fuel cell to generate electricity to power electric motors that turn the unmanned aircraft’s propellers.
ITM Power chief executive Dr Graham Cooley says the company has been talking to Boeing Research and Technology Europe for several years.
The Sheffield company had previously done some of the ground work for a solar powered refuelling station that Boeing is using for the aircraft it is developing in Spain.
“I am delighted that Boeing Research and Technology Europe has now returned to ITM Power to complete the project with our PEM electrolyser technology and I look forward to taking our relationship further,” Dr Cooley added.
Paco Escartí, managing director, of Boeing Research and Technology Europe, said: “We are very excited to test ITM Power´s PEM electrolyser technology in our off-grid solar-based refuelling station for Unmanned Aircraft Systems.”