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  • AFRL Eyes Hybrid UAV Power
    Posted by Graham Warwick 7:26 PM on Jun 02, 2011

    The US Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded Elbit Systems and Lockheed Martin contracts to demonstrate small hybrid-powered unmanned aircraft for hand- and air-launch by special forces.

    The aim of AFRL's Small Unmanned Renewable Energy Long Endurance Vehicle (SURGE-V) program is to provide the persistence and payload of a larger Group 2 UAV in a manpackable Group 1 system weighing less than 20lb. Group 2 UAVs can weigh up to 55lb, are usually hauled around in Humvees and rail- or runway-launched.

    Specific goals are an endurance of more than 4 hours carrying a 4lb electro-optical payload at altitudes up to 25,000ft - Group 1 UAVs normally stay below 1,200ft. AeroVironment's hand-launched Puma AE, for example, weighs 14lb and has a 2hr endurance on battery power. A version with hydrogen fuel-cell power has flown for 9hr, but the payload is only around 2lb.

    Hybrid propulsion can increase persistence by a factor of 4-5 compared with conventional battery power, AFRL says. Extended endurance with heavier payloads will enable hand- or air-launched Group 1 UAS to perform missions such as convoy route clearance, base perimeter security and "airfield seizures", the lab says

    Elbit's US arm EFW has been awarded $388,320 and Lockheed $399,620 for the initial phase of SURGE-V, which is to design a hybrid propulsion system that runs on renewable energy. While the type of propulsion has not been revealed, an example is the hybrid internal-combustion/battery-electric propulsion system under development by Tigon Enertec, using technology from the University of Colorado.

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    Tags: ar99, unmanned, AFRL

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