The French technology company Thales, Drones-Center and ZenT have teamed up to demonstrate a hydrogen-powered drone.
The demonstration was organized to test the industrial and operational feasibility. It is another in a growing number of drone projects that use hydrogen cells to extend flight time.
“Drones that are used in professional applications must combine operational efficiency with maximum flight safety, with their range and endurance being the most important criteria,” said a Thales spokesman.
“Various propulsion technologies already meet these criteria, but hydrogen fuel cells are a particularly effective way of increasing the life of the drone due to the low mass and high energy density of hydrogen.”
During the test, the drone achieved the capacity to fly for up to two hours without a charge with a cell refueling time of no more than a minute.
“Hydrogen drone technology opens up new possibilities for applications such as monitoring sensitive locations and military facilities. Equipped with ScaleFlyt technologies for operational safety and integrated with Thales’ Security Digital Platform, hydrogen drones can carry out complete missions based on highly reliable, affordable and easy-to-implement solutions, ”said Emmanuel Guyonnet, program director for drones at Flight Avionics, Thales.
Researchers say hydrogen drones could one day achieve flight times of at least three hours while carrying payloads of up to 6.6 pounds, covering about 90 percent of all site surveillance and inspection use cases.
A press release from Thales adds:
“For the demonstration flight, the ScaleFlyt geocaging solution was installed on the drone to ensure compliance with legal requirements. This Thales solution combines expertise in robotics, safety technologies and certified avionic systems to provide highly reliable flight control functions for drone operations. ScaleFlyt Geocaging was developed with the support of the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) and guarantees that the drone will remain in a specific area throughout the flight. “
Hydrogen drones fly
In April, the South Korean drone company Doosan Mobility Innovation (DMI) signed an agreement with the Dutch government agency NHN (Development Agency Noord-Holland Noord, NHN) to test offshore solutions for hydrogen drones, including delivery, ship monitoring and search and rescue. In 2020, public safety drone consultancy Skyfire Consulting announced a partnership with Doosan and hydrogen fuel service provider ReadyH2 to embark on a pipeline inspection project for an unnamed American company. Doosan uses a hydrogen-powered octocopter with a hydrogen-powered generator, which fuels two hours of flight per mission over almost 80 kilometers.
UAV service provider Robotic Skies partnered with UK fuel cell startup Intelligent Energy last year to offer expanded post-sale support for drone fuel cells. Intelligent Energy makes very light, high-power hydrogen fuel cells that are used for many drone applications, especially projects that require longer flight times, such as the delivery of drones.
Jason is a longtime DroneLife employee with an avid interest in all things technical. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector. Police, fire and search and rescue.
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