Launch code: Boeing drone trial cracks global defence sector for Li-S

Li-S Energy has got a foot in the door of the huge defence sector after aerospace giant Boeing agreed to work on the potential to use the Brisbane company’s innovative batteries in its unmanned aircraft systems.

Dec 02, 2021, updated Dec 02, 2021
One of UAVs in the trial

One of UAVs in the trial

A memorandum of understanding has been signed with Boeing’s Brisbane subsidiary Insitu Pacific, which works with the defence sector in the Asia Pacific.

The announcement pushed up Li-S Energy shares by 5 per cent at the start of trade on the ASX this morning.

It follows an announcement last month by the Royal Australian Air Force that it would partner with Boeing Australia to develop the Loyal Wingman drone.

The Li-S deal is a significant credibility boost for the company which is in the early stages of producing a lithium-sulphur battery that lasts as much as three times longer than the dominant lithium-ion battery. The LI-S product could produce an equivalent energy output at a significantly lighter weight..

The agreement means both companies would define and execute a program to manufacture and test batteries for the unmanned aircraft systems.

A joint flight-testing campaign would then be done at Insitu’s test range in Queensland to prove performance gains.

“Should the advantages be realised, the Insitu Pacific UAS would be well positioned as a key contender for a number of global small tactical UAS opportunities that Insitu is pursuing,” Li-S said.

“These opportunities are with a range of defence forces globally.”

Li-S chief executive Lee Finniear, who previously worked with Metal Storm, said that as the market for unmanned aircraft grew and new applications and capabilities were added, battery weight and energy density would become critical factors.

Last month, Li-S signed an agreement with Janus Electric to develop lithium metal battery cells for use in the company’s prime mover battery packs. Janus intends to buy these battery cells from Li-S to meet its anticipated future requirements of 495,000 battery cells by the end of 2023.

Li-S parent, PPK has also promised to repeat the process that led to the huge success of its Li-S Energy IPO and listing.

The Brisbane-based commercialisation company told shareholders earlier this week that it would also sell off its mining equipment division in the new year and that 2022 promised to be a watershed for the company.

PPK executive chairman Robin Levison said the company was targeting significant progress on multiple industry applications of boron nitrate nanotubes, a technology the was fundamental to the Li-S success.

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“PPK believes that 2022 will be the year when its commercialisation model generates another result like Li-S,” Levison said.

“The IPO and listing of Li-S Energy earlier this year was an exciting representation of PPK’s commercialisation model in action. Further projects are progressing in the commercialisation model and PPK anticipates the Li-S process being repeated on at least one occasion in 2022.

“PPK anticipates that 2022 will be the most value creating year in its history.”

Li-S is producing a lithium sulphur battery which promises to be at least three times better than the dominant lithium-ion battery. When its 65 cent shares hit started trading on the ASX they hit $2.33 on the first day and have added $681 million to the PPK balance sheet through its retained shares.

He said there had been merger and acquisition interest in some of the companies in which it has investments.

Levison said ESG was expected to be a big focus for the company

The next company in its ranks is White Graphene Ltd, which also uses the BNNT technology. It is currently collaborating with Sun Metals in Townsville over the use of white graphene in storage and transportation of chemicals.

Its Craig International Ballistics company had also secured “a large increase” in sales for 2021-22, including body armour deals with the ADF and for law enforcement in the Asia-Pacific.


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