In January 2008, I had talked about how the hydrogen fuel cell Puma unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) had set a world record by staying aloft for 7 hours. Last week the AeroVironment Puma has set another world record by flying for a full 9 hours.
The Puma is powered by a Protonex Pulse UAV fuel cell system coupled with a Millennium Cell Hydrogen on Demand energy storage system. Commissioned by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the Puma is able to stay aloft three times long using the Protonex and Millennium Cell systems than would be possible using other battery technology.
The hand-launched Puma, for military purposes, needs to meet certain endurance and payload requirements that is not possible using current battery technology. When setting the record, the Puma autoried a two-camera payload and streamed live video to the participants in the test.
Small UAV’s such as Puma are currently being used around the world for surveillance, real-time reconnaissance and target acquisition. Puma opens up the door for extended missions, where one person can launch a UAV, receive live streaming video on a handheld ground control unit and recharge or replace the UAV’s Hydrogen on Demand pack as needed.
Puma has a wingspan of 8.5 feet, weighs only 12.5 pounds and has a range of approximately 6 miles.