Seoul, South Korea based LG Chem, Ltd and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute set an altitude record with their LG Li-S (lithium sulfur) battery powered EAV-3 UAV on August 30th.
The EAV-3 reached an altitude of 22km above sea level, or approximately 72,000 feet during the flight, and operated for seven hours in the stratosphere at altitudes between 12 and 22 kilometers MSL, during its 13 hour total period of operation on a Lithium sulfur battery designed and manufactured by LG Chem, Ltd.
Lightweight Li-S batteries use sulfur-carbon composites as anodes and lithium metals for cathodes. LG Chem’s Li-S batteries are reportedly lighter than existing Lithium-Ion batteries, and claims that there battery packs have energy densities that are 1.5 times that of today’s standard lithium ion batteries. The company did not disclose what baseline energy density they used to generate this figure.
While the UAV altitude record is impressive, the IP of this achievement resides in the high energy density of the batteries themselves, showcasing an asset that LG Chem Ltd. may be able to provide to the aerial mobility industry in the future.
While Lithium-ion batteries exist today that allow for reasonable performance and range of aerial mobility or personal aerial vehicles, even a mere 10% increase in energy density almost directly correlates to 10% increases in endurance and flight time of electrically powered aircraft. A claimed 50% increase over current battery technology would allow for range extensions to validate use cases of aerial mobility aircraft as intercity transports for short range flights, not just aircraft that facilitate the “last mile” or last 10-15 miles of a journey over congested freeways.
Why it’s important: LG Chem Ltd’s Li-S battery technology may become a feasible alternative to commercially available Lithium Ion batteries. However, the super-high energy density battery industry is filled with other competitors working hard to develop their own energy sources that are superior to any currently available power sources, such as Cuberg, which developed a battery that allowed a test case drone to fly for 70% longer by redesigning lithium ion battery infrastructure from the ground up.