Research Summaries

Back Shipboard Hydrogen Unmanned Aerial System Operational Analysis

Fiscal Year 2020
Division Research & Sponsored Programs
Department NPS Naval Research Program
Investigator(s) Pollman, Anthony G.
Sponsor NPS Naval Research Program (Navy)
Summary The advantage of hydrogen fuel for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is well documented. Yet, the technology has not been demonstrated & assessed for Naval applications. In addition, the advantages & use of rotary-wing aircraft are well appreciated by the Naval services.
Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) recently acquired a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered, six-rotor UAV capable of continuous flight for 3.5 hours (as opposed to 20 minutes for similarly-sized battery UAVs). In addition, NPS researchers have successfully demonstrated technology for harvesting, storing, & compressing hydrogen from the humidity in ambient air. This study will leverage these enterprise investments to contribute to technological analysis and evaluation of hydrogen for future Naval use.
The study will be executed in four phases. During the lab phase, the UAV will be flown in labs at NPS where safe fueling & operations procedures will be mastered. Co-currently, coordination will be conducted across all functional-area stakeholders to plan & prepare for operational testing & evaluation. The researchers believe that the most risk lies in this work (because it is not clear what steps are needed to get hydrogen on a ship). Then ashore & afloat demonstrations & assessments will be executed, with a sponsor approved test matrix, to quantify hydrogen UAV in terms of endurance, infrared signature, external lift, and fuel cost. Finally, during the analysis phase, data from the demonstration will be analyzed & compared to traditional UAV performance.
The results will be incorporated into a technical report. Specifically, the report will address questions such as: (1) how could we use, generate, and/or store hydrogen in the restrictive environment of a U.S. Naval warship, (2) how does a rotary-wing, hydrogen UAV perform relative to currently available fossil-fuel-battery rotary wing UAVs, (3) what would or should a shipboard rotary-wing hydrogen UAS look like, (4) what process and integration barriers exist that would hinder adoption of hydrogen technology aboard ship?
This work directly supports the analysis & assessment needs of HQMC Aviation & OPNAV N-94. It also answers the CNOs call, spelled out in A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, to better leverage NPS to address long-term sustainment and logistics in support of the Distributed Maritime Operations concept. Finally, if successful, this work serves as a stepping stone toward bringing large UAV swarms to fruition; &, future work in this specific domain is anticipated.
Publications Publications, theses (not shown) and data repositories will be added to the portal record when information is available in FAIRS and brought back to the portal
Data Publications, theses (not shown) and data repositories will be added to the portal record when information is available in FAIRS and brought back to the portal