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MQ-9 Battery Technology Improvements



OBJECTIVE: Develop a safe and low maintenance Li ion battery replacement for the MQ-9 unmanned aerial system (UAS), able to support a 365-day inspection interval in order to reduce aircraft downtime without degrading the current system specifications. 

DESCRIPTION: The objective of this topic is to design and develop a lithium ion battery- based solution as a potential NiCd battery replacement as a means to minimize the sustainment requirements with a 365-day inspection interval objective, as well as increasing the power and energy available onboard the aircraft. Unmanned aerial systems (UASs) have become an essential asset for U.S. military forces, and increasingly by allied forces, to help establish battlefield superiority in today’s hot zones, allowing for more precise weapons targeting and better protection over friendly forces. The use of these weapon systems have and continue to provide unparalleled real-time information to the ground forces to support both the Global War on Terrorism and humanitarian relief missions. Therefore, any substantial aircraft downtime due to routine or unwarranted maintenance need to be minimized for optional…… Battery reliability and maintainability with the existing NiCd battery has become a substantial issue that can drive sustainment costs and aircraft downtime. Improving the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the battery with a new technology solution will not only reduce sustainment costs but can also help to improve the SWaP (size, weight, and power) as well as capacity. The primary focus of this effort shall be on developing a safe, sustainable battery solution, not only during operation, but also address the logistics challenges of any specialized transportation, storage, and handling requirements. UN/DOT 38.3 and Navy Instruction 9310 shall be used to determine reasonable lithium ion battery safety considerations. The solution should be as close to a form/fit/function replacement as possible. The existing NiCd battery specifications are as follows: nominal 25.2V (16.8V cut-off), 16Ah capacity, specific energy density 44.3 Wh/kg (cells only), volumetric energy density 836.1 Wh/L (cells only), max continuous discharge rate of 5C at the battery level, and nominal charge rate of C/3. The operating environment is -40 degrees C to +60 degrees C and 0 percent to 100 percent humidity, with a non- operating environment requirement of -40 degrees C to +70 degrees C. Aircraft design changes to enable battery compatibility should be kept to a minimum. Any changes required for integration of the battery solution shall be identified and documented. 

PHASE I: Determine feasibility of replacing the MQ-9 battery with a lithium ion battery based solution design with a 365-day maintenance inspection internal, while improving upon the baseline battery metrics stated above. Demonstrate through testing a safe solution can be achieved during all operational and non-operational conditions. Evaluate logistics impacts on the current MQ-9 transportation and storage infrastructure. Develop a plan to ensure battery replacement meets all required specs, identifying technical challenges and how these can be overcome. 

PHASE II: Develop and demonstrate Li ion-based MQ-9 battery, with the ability to meet the stated metrics above. Develop test plan and conduct laboratory testing to confirm safety and performance. Safety testing shall be performed in accordance with UN/DOT 38.3 and Navy Instruction 9310. Conduct a formal risk assessment of the battery solution for transportation, storage, handling and use in an operational environment, perform a projected cost analysis for manufacturing at full-rate, and document key program risks, as well as risk mitigation steps. Identify any impact replacement battery would have on current aircraft design, including software/hardware. Deliver a prototype Li ion battery to AFRL for testing and analysis. 

PHASE III: Fully mature technology replacement battery technology utilizing the structured MQ-9 upgrade strategy, to include providing drawings, delta specs, LG analysis, HW/SW Mx IETMs, etc. Submit production representative articles and pass UN/DOT 38.3 and MIL-STD-810G testing and certification. Once criteria is met, the solution may become a candidate for integration onto the platform. Develop and refine cost and schedule estimates for full rate production. 


1. NAVSEA TM-S9310-AQ-SAF-010, TECHNICAL MANUAL FOR BATTERIES, NAVY LITHIUM SAFETY PROGRAM RESPONSIBILITIES AND PROCEDURES DISTRIBUTION. (August 2004).; 2. MIL-STD-810G, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE TEST METHOD STANDARD: ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING CONSIDERATIONS AND LABORATORY TESTS (15-APR-2014).; 3. USAF MQ-9 Reaper Fact Sheet. (September 2015).; 4. M. Jacoby, "Assessing The Safety Of Lithium-Ion Batteries," Chemical and Engineering News, Vol 91, Issue 6, 33-37, (2013).

KEYWORDS: Aircraft Lithium Battery, Rechargeable Lithium Battery, Secondary Lithium Battery, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, Energy Storage, Battery Safety 

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