Long Range Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Flight Demonstrations from Regional Airports using Liquid Hydrogen Energy Refueling Systems

FY22 Project

Regional airports that have been supported by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over many decades for the public are significantly underutilized.  With the projection of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) market approaching a staggering $130B over the next 10 years, these regional airports have enormous potential to be economic engines as personal air vehicles (flying cars), package delivery drones, and remotely operated vehicles take to the skies.  In addition, the Department of Defense (DoD) has Air Force bases and Navy carrier groups that are in a position to provide long range UAV support for a number of missions including Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) monitoring, Operational Preparation of the Environment, continuous high-altitude support during convoys, and energy/supplies delivery.  The key enabling technology for dual use commercialization of UAVs for civilian and military applications is maximizing on-board vehicle energy storage with the NEOEx EXTEND™ Energy and Power System using liquid hydrogen energy storage and fuel cell produced electrical power.  EXTEND™-enabled UAVs have 20x more energy than battery powered UAVs leading to extremely long-duration (20 hours)/long-range (1,000 miles) flight operations for Group 2 UAVs weighing less than 55 lbs. and is scalable to larger vehicles.

The NEOEx team, consisting of ten regional public and private partners, propose to leverage a NEOEx DoD Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I contract and obtain a sole source DoD STTR Phase III contract that will complete development of the EXTEND™ Energy and Power System and associated ground support equipment for hydrogen refueling pilot production facilities using advanced manufacturing techniques.  We will demonstrate powering the hydrogen generation and refueling ground support equipment using a micro-grid with multiple sources of renewable and regional natural gas energy supplies to generate and liquefy the hydrogen.   The project will culminate in a demonstration of long-range, continuous flights of small UAVs for package delivery between Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport and Lorain County Regional Airport using the same Fixed Base Operator at both airports.  The flight demonstrations will validate the hardware production approach, flight operations model, and business model, which can then be replicated, deployed, and sustained at any airport or military base on the globe.

This project will launch Northeast Ohio into the “decade of hydrogen” and re-establish the region as a leader in hydrogen for advanced applications in transportation and energy storage with the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) in Cleveland, Ohio being the first to fly liquid hydrogen in an aircraft in 1957.  NEOEx Systems, Inc. (neoexsystemsinc.com) is a Small Business headquartered in Amherst, Ohio with operations facilities in Elyria, Ohio.