Hydrogen gas generator for balloon deployed communications link

System enables communication from remote canyon areas


RF communication is difficult if not impossible when in a canyon or surrounded by buildings. This makes it challenging for ground troops, firefighters, and outdoor recreationalists to communicate. Given the interest that the Navy has in keeping people in communication, scientists and engineers at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division have developed a system to relay communications from a person on the ground – in a confined space – to others out of line-of-sight.

The device is a portable hydrogen gas generator which inflates a balloon. A communications relay device is tethered to the balloon. In this way, a person on the ground can inflate the balloon with the hydrogen generator and bounce a signal off of the relay to be received by a remote antenna. This hydrogen generator utilizes a guanidinium borohydride (GBH) pellet reacted with the heat from battery power fed through a high-resistance wire. This reaction does not require water, is self-sustaining and generates a high-percentage of hydrogen by mass. This device and method captures the fine particulate ash commonly generated through hydrogen production which can clog mechanical valves and which would add to the mass of the balloon.

The invention provides an airborne platform that can raise emergency beacons, radio repeaters, and other payloads above the surrounding terrain and also control generated ash in a manner that maintains operability of systems using the generated hydrogen.

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