SOFC company wins Boeing/DARPA contract to supply energy storage and generation technology for ultra-long endurance aircraft
Versa Power Systems, Inc., a developer of high-power solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), has been selected as one of the key suppliers to The Boeing Co. under the next phase of a US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program to develop and fly a very long endurance unmanned aircraft. (Earlier post.)
The technology will enable an aircraft to remain on station at stratospheric altitudes for at least five years, will perform persistent communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions from altitudes above 60,000 feet. In the project, DARPA’s Vulture program, Boeing pairs Versa Power’s specialized solid state SOFC technology with solar equipment that together serve as the aircraft’s on-board source of electricity. Combining a fuel cell with solar power provides continuous energy, making long-term propulsion and flight operations possible.
During the project’s next phase, Versa Power will engineer and scale up its technology for an SOFC-based energy storage and power generation system to be incorporated in a demonstrator version of the SolarEagle, Boeing’s name for the demonstrator aircraft. It is slated to remain aloft in the upper atmosphere for a minimum of 30 days.
Versa Power’s work to adapt its SOFC fuel cell designs was funded in part under a US Department of Energy initiative to hasten introduction of green technologies enabling solar and wind installations (renewable but intermittent sources of electricity) to produce energy on a continuous basis.