GKN Aerospace demonstrated a ground-based liquid hydrogen aircraft fuel system as a potential way to increase the endurance of a search and rescue (SAR) uncrewed aerial system (UAS).
The demonstrator was designed, built, and tested in collaboration with Filton Systems Engineering, under the Innovate UK-funded Safe Flight project. From concept to operation, the demonstrator was delivered within 12 months.
The goal was to understand and address safety concerns raised by the introduction of liquid hydrogen fuel. The team developed integrated fuel tank design and distribution solutions, including vaporizing and cryogenic conditioning of the liquid hydrogen. Fuel system performance was verified by coupling it with a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell stack, representative of the type that could be installed on a future zero-emission aircraft. The project demonstrated successful storage and management of liquid hydrogen, supplying the fuel cell power system with hydrogen at the required temperature and pressure throughout a range of electrical loads typical of a SAR UAS mission.
The project’s key outcomes include development of safe system design, manufacturing knowledge, operational knowledge for liquid hydrogen fuel systems, hydrogen fuel system test data, and an adaptable test rig suited to further study hydrogen components and subsystems.