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The University of Southampton

Research project: Buoyancy propulsion system for an Unmanned Air System (UAS): Phoenix (ref: 102379)

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This Innovate-UK funded project is an unique research collaboration focussed on the development of a solar-powered unmanned air system (UAS) with unprecedented endurance, using a new method of propulsion to sustain powered flight. This industrially focussed project, entitled the ‘Phoenix’ consortium, is led by the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and 6 further industrial partners, and includes the Universities of Bristol, Newcastle and Sheffield in addition to the University of Southampton.

This is a first-of-its-kind UAS propulsion system that is highly innovative and involves the integration of a Photovoltaic power system, battery and reversible fuel cell components, and will, if successfully demonstrated, lead to a step change in aviation emissions. The University of Southampton is engaged as a project partner to specify and simulate the power system for the UAS. Refinement and final demonstrator build will take place following analysis of the performance of initial tests. This is the first time that such a UAS power system has been developed hence poses unique technical challenges in the integration and energy management of a system comprising photovoltaics, battery storage and reversible fuel cell systems. Longer term the low power, sustainable nature of this UAS propulsion system could significantly reduce aviation related carbon emissions.

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