The Ann Arbor-based Advanced Materials Inc. division of England’s Ultra Electronics Holdings plc has collaborated with Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin to extend the time of the defense contractor’s Stalker unmanned aircraft.

Lockheed Martin announced this new, ruggedized version of its Stalker Unmanned Air System, called the Stalker eXtreme Endurance UAS.

The Stalker XE system quadruples Stalker’s flight endurance to eight-plus hours without impacting the mobility or payload capabilities of the unmanned system.

The Stalker XE system is powered by Ultra Electronics’ AMI fuel cell. The portable power unit integrates with the Stalker’s existing conventional lithium polymer battery to handle power peaks. The fuel cell was developed by AMI in a project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

“Missions requiring real time eyes-on a situation for extended periods of time, like border patrol, pipeline surveillance and special operations can now be conducted by a small UAS versus a larger, more costly system,” said Tom Koonce, Lockheed Martin’s Stalker program manager. ‘The convenience and lower cost of a small UAS combined with extended endurance is a true game-changer.”

The DARPA project culminated with a rigorous flight test program including numerous back-to-back, long endurance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance high altitude and high wind flights proving that the Stalker UAS met or exceeded all technical and performance milestones.

The complete Stalker XE system includes two aircraft, fuel cells, command and control ground station, support equipment, and small propane fuel storage tank. The standard air vehicle sensor is a modular dual daylight and night-time imager that allows surveillance to continue during the visual and thermal transition from day to night.