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The U.S. Army is interested in new technologies that could allow it to use multiple fuel types in unmanned vehicles. The Army awarded the University of Wisconsin-Madison a four year, $11.5 million contract for research that’s expected to lead to new designs of multi-fuel capable hybrid-electric engines for future Army air and ground vehicles. 

The research is also expected to answer key questions about integrating hybrid-electric engines in future Army propulsion and power generation systems.

Currently, “the Army’s unmanned aircraft are powered by engines built for ground transportation systems; these engines were developed to work with commercially-available fuels such as gasoline and diesel,” said Dr. Mike Kweon, program manager for the Versatile Tactical Power and Propulsion Essential Research Program of the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory. “To comply with the Department of Defense single fuel forward policy, our ground and air vehicles must use F-24, [which is] a kind of jet fuel. Even though this fuel has been upgraded with three military additives for greater performance, the fuel lacks fuel property specifications such as cetane number and viscosity.”

Army researchers need to know these properties to make sure that the fuels are acceptable for use however Soldiers just need to know the systems are performing as they should and are reliable.

The research will lead to the development of enabling technologies for reliable ignition detection and control. 

Future Army propulsion systems also need to meet increasing payload and onboard power requirements along with the desire for new capabilities, such as reduced noise or thermal signature, and improved durability and reliability, according to