Today: Apr 17, 2024

Ohio startup powers sky-high with liquid-hydrogen drone defense contract

4 months ago
  • Startup NEOEx Systems, Inc has been awarded a $6.4 million defense contract to develop a liquid hydrogen-powered flight system for drones.
  • The company’s system allows drones to fly up to 20 hours and 1,000 miles thanks to an onboard storage and power system, fueled by a portable liquid hydrogen refuelling station.
  • After a seven-year development period, the system was demonstrated at an energy expo at the Pentagon in 2022 and is now set to support a drone test flight in 2024.
  • The system offers advantages in military operations, reducing the need for conventional fuel delivery, and also has potential commercial uses.

Ohio-based NEOEx Systems has been developing their technology over seven years. The program creates and delivers small quantities of liquid hydrogen to drones up to 55 pounds that are fitted with NEOEx’s onboard storage and power system, thus allowing them to fly many times farther than drones using traditional gasoline or batteries. Military use of drones for activities like reconnaissance and weapons deployment is rapidly expanding, leading to considerable commercial potential for long-range drones, from package delivery and infrastructure inspection to storm data collection.

Liquid hydrogen has been used as a fuel for several years, most notably in the launch of space rockets. However, the generation and storage of large amounts of liquid hydrogen is often costly and challenging. NEOEx’s model creates a solution for this problem by developing a portable, mobile refueling station to generate small amounts of liquid hydrogen. The system is clean, with water and heat emitted as byproducts of operation.

The system underwent a successful demonstration at the Pentagon’s energy expo in 2022 and NEOEx has plans for a drone test flight in 2024 between Lorain County Airport in Elyria and Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna. The success has led the startup to transition towards a recruitment phase after years of working with interns and part-timers.

Through the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining, NEOEx landed a $6.4 million subcontract for developing advanced manufacturing technologies for the next-generation unmanned weapon systems. The company’s biggest challenge will now be managing fast growth; however, experts predict an “explosive growth” on the horizon with potential commercial demand for the product.