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Asia's first hybrid-powered drone makes maiden flight

2010/05/13 19:34:17

Taipei, May 13 (CNA) Asia's first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)powered by a fuel cell and lithium battery hybrid made its maidenflight in southern Taiwan Thursday, marking a milestone in Taiwan'sdevelopment of green-powered drone aircraft.

The green-powered UAV, which uses a cost- and fuel-efficienthybrid of a fuel cell and lithium battery, completed its maidenflight Thursday in Pingtung County's Ligang Township, said Lewis W.H.Lai, an aerospace engineering professor at National Cheng KungUniversity (NCKU) in Tainan City, also in southern Taiwan.

The UAV, dubbed the Grey-faced Buzzard, flew for 15 minutes atbetween 80-100 kph at an altitude of less than 300 meters, accordingto Lai, manager of the drone development project.

"The Grey-faced Buzzard produces no carbon dioxide emissions andis very quiet, " Lai said at a press conference held at NCKU.

"The hybrid battery is an amelioration of a fuel cell, which onits own is too costly, and a lithium battery, which on its own hastoo short a durability, " he added.

It cost about NT$500,000 (US$15,822) to build the UAV, whichweighs 22 kg, is nearly 2 meters long and produces 1 kilowatt ofpower, or approximately 1.34 horsepower, Lai said.

"For a similar UAV, the battery component alone would cost NT$1million if a fuel cell alone were to be used," he added.

The next target of Lai and his team is to enlarge the drone inthe hope that it can stay in the air for as long as three hours at atime.

UAVs are used by the military to collect intelligence and forrescue missions in areas that manned craft or men on the groundcannot reach, according to Lai.

(By Chang Jung-hsiang and Deborah Kuo)