New Technology Could Transform How Air Force Uses Energy

By Marisa Alia-Novobilski
Air Force Research Laboratory

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Advanced Power Technology Office is in the process of testing a newly designed hybrid electric and battery powered mobile dock system for C-5 maintenance at Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex. The new system integrates ‘clean’ technology and has the potential to save maintenance time while increasing operational readiness of Air Force platforms. (U.S. Air Force photo by Marisa Novobilski)

Transforming the way the Air Force uses energy is a key focus of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Advanced Power Technology Office as it seeks to enable the use of alternative energy and energy efficient technologies.

A new, hybrid electric and battery powered mobile dock system for aircraft depot maintenance is one way that the APTO team is refining capabilities for Air Force teams, developing a clean, efficient energy saving system in the process.

“Traditional lift platforms are either diesel or battery powered. The battery powered lifts have limited range; the batteries are typically depleted over the course of a shift, and they have a lengthy recharge time. This system includes a direct methanol fuel cell for onboard battery charging,” said Eric Griesenbrock, the APTO Installation Energy Working Group Lead. “It’s an electric, battery powered mobile dock but it has a fuel cell that continuously charges the battery—it’s like a ‘Prius’ for maintainers.”

Lift platforms and hard stands play a key role in the maintenance of Air Force platforms, enabling maintainers to safely access panels and components of an aircraft during routine maintenance at a hangar.

Hard stands—similar to scaffolding—require maintainers to construct and relocate as they move around an aircraft to complete maintenance duties. Setting up and moving the hard stands can add a week to the time it takes to get an aircraft ready to begin the maintenance process.

Taking cues from the commercial industry, the APTO team retrofitted commercial lift platforms with direct methanol fuel cells, aircraft maintenance platforms and safety devices and controls.

The result is a new mobile lift platform that is able to move and shift as maintainers move around an aircraft, eliminating the time required of traditional hard stands. Direct methanol fuel cells provide on-board battery charging, thereby enabling around-the-clock maintenance operations.

Another benefit of the new mobile platform is the integration of ‘clean’ technology which enables maintenance teams to operate the system with hangar doors closed.

The new platforms are currently augmenting existing lift platforms and hard stands as part of a six month demonstration to validate their efficiency and effectiveness at Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex.

Learn more about this technology.

RELATED LINKS: Military’s Shift Toward Renewable Energy
The Navy’s “Renewable Energy Push” in Hawaii
Harvesting the Benefits of Solar Power

Follow Armed with Science on Facebook and Twitter!

———

Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website. Portions of this story may have been edited for clarity.