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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2014, Article ID 497642, 12 pages
Review Article

Fuel Cells: A Real Option for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Propulsion

1Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial “Esteban Terradas” (INTA), Carretera Ajalvir km.4.,Torrejón de Ardoz, 28850 Madrid, Spain
2Departamento de Sistemas Oceánicos y Navales, ETSI Navales, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Avenida Arco de la Victoria 4, 28040 Madrid, Spain
3Departamento de Motopropulsión y Termofluidodinámica, ETSI Aeronáuticos, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Plaza Cardenal Cisneros 3, 28040 Madrid, Spain

Received 31 August 2013; Accepted 11 November 2013; Published 30 January 2014

Academic Editors: K.-M. Chung and M. Yamamoto

Copyright © 2014 Óscar González-Espasandín et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The possibility of implementing fuel cell technology in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) propulsion systems is considered. Potential advantages of the Proton Exchange Membrane or Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEMFC) and Direct Methanol Fuel Cells (DMFC), their fuels (hydrogen and methanol), and their storage systems are revised from technical and environmental standpoints. Some operating commercial applications are described. Main constraints for these kinds of fuel cells are analyzed in order to elucidate the viability of future developments. Since the low power density is the main problem of fuel cells, hybridization with electric batteries, necessary in most cases, is also explored.