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The project, named RAPACE, aims to develop a 100% French hydrogen UAV, integrating a complete hydrogen energy system. Within the École de l'Air, the project is led by civilian and military researchers from the Centre de Recherche de l'École de l'Air (CREA), which studies aerospace systems and their military use, and conducts multidisciplinary research aimed at gaining a better understanding of the evolution of technologies, doctrines and organizations. Through their collaboration, CEA-Liten and École de l'Air wish to develop a long-term scientific and technical research partnership that will enable them to respond effectively to the challenges they face in the field of hydrogen use.
The company Atechsys, based in Pourrières, in the Var region, was chosen to build the airframe and its ground station. The fuel cell technology is developed by researchers at CEA-Liten and aims to confirm the position of France in this high-tech market. France, sovereign and independent in scientific and technological terms. The technology embedded in this demonstrator will allow to widen the range of use of this laboratory UAV. Its specificity is its ideal adaptation for all severe environmental conditions (all-weather flight).
The first test flight is scheduled for early 2022. The Centre d'Initiation et de Formation des Equipages Drones (CIFED) will play a central role during this phase by being the system operator. The evolution of the military use of RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems) is a cross-disciplinary area of research for CREA, which is taking a multi-disciplinary approach, considering operational, organizational and technological factors.
Francois Legalland, Director of CEA-Liten: « CEA-Liten is at the heart of the development of the "decarbonated hydrogen" sector in France and around the world. For more than 20 years, we have been focusing on the hydrogen carrier, from its production to its use, including storage and transport. This technology, like batteries and photovoltaics before it, is gradually reaching maturity. We are at the heart of our missions to develop new key technologies and support new French sectors to maintain national sovereignty in highly competitive industrial and research environments. »
Angel Scipioni, lecturer and project leader at the École de l'Air: « In a general context of energy decarbonization, particularly in the aeronautical sector, the École de l'Air aims to explore the potential of using hydrogen in military applications. »
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CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.