Lithium-sulphur battery developer Li-S Energy (ASX:LIS) has announced a collaboration with Boeing subsidiary Insitu Pacific to integrate and test its battery technology in Insitu’s range of Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

LIS uses boron nitride nano-tubes (BNNT) to retain a much stronger, longer-lasting energy capacity than lithium-ion while avoiding the significant degradation which has made lithium sulphur batteries unviable until now.

This could mean drones that fly for hours between charges – which could be a game changer for companies like Insitu where the total weight of the battery packs and the energy capacity have a direct impact on drones’ flight time, altitude capability and overall range, the company said.

Market for UAVs accelerating

Insitu serves defence customers across the Asia Pacific region, with its drones used in border surveillance, mapping, surveying, and determining the weather conditions.

If successful, the collaboration could drastically impact the scope of missions and deployments where its UAS can successfully operate, LIS said.

“As the market for UAVs continues to accelerate with new applications and capabilities, battery weight and energy density has become one of the most critical factors for UAV performance, Li-S Energy CEO Dr Lee Finniear said.

“We are looking forward to working with Insitu Pacific to demonstrate the benefits of Li-S Energy batteries in these applications.”

Flight testing the next step

Under the memorandum of agreement, the companies aim to manufacture and test batteries to the same size, weight and power constraints as the Insitu Pacific UAS – as well as utilising the same payload space and connectors.

If successful, the parties will then run a joint flight-testing campaign at Insitu Pacific’s test range in Queensland to prove the performance gains expected by using the batteries.

If the results are advantageous, Insitu would be well placed as a key contender for several small tactical UAS opportunities its pursuing with defence forces globally.

And LIS would have proved its battery technology in UAS just months after listing on the ASX in September.

The company raised $34m from its IPO at $0.85 per share with a market cap at the offer price of $544 million. Today its market cap is $1.14 billion.