Zero Emission Hydrogen-Powered USV Under Development

By Mike Ball / 22 Sep 2021

hydrogen powered USV

SEA-KIT International has been awarded a grant to install an innovative PCB-based hydrogen fuel cell on its 12 metre-long Maxlimer USV (unmanned surface vessel) in order to demonstrate zero emission maritime operations.

The project has been funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) with support from Innovate UK and aims to showcase a successful diesel to hydrogen conversion of SEA-KIT’s proven USV design, and to demonstrate a route to fulfilling the UK’s Clean Maritime Plan Strategy commitment of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping by at least 50% by 2050.

Bramble Energy, a developer of clean tech solutions, will design and manufacture a marinized, customised version of its printed circuit board fuel cell (PCBFC). The use of PCBs, as opposed to metallic or graphite end plates, makes the technology more suited to rugged, marine environments.

SEA-KIT’s Maxlimer demonstration USV will be retrofitted to allow Bramble Energy’s PCBFC system to sit inside an enclosure within the vessel to prevent sea water ingress and corrosion. Data gathered from bench testing and sea trials will be utilised for the design and build of similar USVs, as well as for larger unmanned vessel builds in the near future.

USVs are already being deployed for a range of commercial tasks, including geophysical survey, offshore inspections, surveillance and coastal asset monitoring. This collaboration between SEA-KIT and Bramble Energy aims to enable the emergence of hydrogen fuel systems as another viable option for the fast-growing USV market.

Ben Simpson, CEO of SEA-KIT, commented: “SEA-KIT USVs have a dual diesel-electric hybrid drive, with propulsion coming from an electric motor powered by battery banks that are charged by in-situ diesel generators. This project will replace one of the diesel generators with new hydrogen fuel cell technology from Bramble Energy and demonstrate an offshore operation with zero carbon emissions.”

Dr Vidal Bharath, COO of Bramble Energy, said: “Bramble Energy is committed to powering a net zero economy. This project provides the perfect opportunity to demonstrate our decarbonising technology in a real world, challenging environment across a new industry with an exciting commercial partner.”

Simon Edmonds, Deputy Executive Chair and Chief Business Officer for Innovate UK, noted: “As the UK prepares to host COP26 in the maritime city of Glasgow, it is great that we can announce funding for these fantastic projects in the maritime sector that will help the UK meet its net zero goals. From this competition we saw a very high level of demand, we have seen the very best of British ideas from all over the country. It is clear that not only does the UK have a great maritime history, but also a bright and greener future too.”

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Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact