For 26 hours and one minute — that’s how long the Ion Tiger circled nonstop over Aberdeen Proving Ground.
ports, military bases and even corporations are viewing drones as a method of video surveillance. The 37-pound experimental Navy unmanned aerial vehicle set an endurance record for fuel-cell-powered drones November 16 and November 17, more than doubling the flight time of its closest rivals. On board: A five-pound payload, a 9.5-pound tank of compressed hydrogen and a lightweight but powerful fuel-cell engine. The flight showed what can be accomplished with fuel-cell power and a small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). But it also revealed some of what still remains to be done. With 26 hours of endurance, a UAV like the Ion Tiger could be sent on long-range missions. Or it could simply be launched to loiter overhead, ready to be used when needed, said the head of the chemistry division of the Naval Research Laboratory’s alternative energy section. Equipped with a day-night camera, the plane could become a reconnaissance and surveillance platform. With communications gear on board, it could serve as a relay node. The main goal was a display of endurance, and the research lab nailed that. “No one else has come close to flying for 24 hours with a significant payload,” she said. But the aircraft was designed to fly 27 miles per hour. That’s 702 miles in 26 hours, a useful distance for a variety of missions. U.S.