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Satnews Daily
March 18th, 2009

Super Charging The Puma UAV

Puma UAV (AeroVironment) Protonex Technology Corp. has landed a new contract with the U.S. Department of Defense that could be worth as much as $3.3 million.

Under terms of the deal, Protonex (LSE: AIM: PTX and PTXU) will develop a pre-production fuel cell power system for powering small, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). that will extend flight time and mission endurance. The contract includes a $2.2 million base award with a $1.1 million option, according to the company. The project will also draw from previous Protonex projects, particularly the UAV systems the company has developed for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the Naval Research Laboratory, and California-based vehicle maker AeroVironment Inc. Specifically, under terms of the new DOD contract, Protonex will customize one of its fuel cell power platforms and integrate it into AeroVironment’s Puma-AE UAV. The resulting UAV is expected to enable new long-duration missions, not previously feasible with hand-launched UAVs powered by advanced batteries, officials said. Last fall, AeroVironment’s Puma UAV, using a Protonex fuel cell system, broke its previous flight records and flew continuously for over nine hours — three to four times the endurance capability of its current rechargeable batteries.