A hydrogen powered drone with a 5 kg payload has created a new world record for flying 70 minutes uninterrupted.
Project RACHEL’s hydrogen fuel cell powered multi-rotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) beat its original test flight target of 60 minutes.
The project was led by venture engineering company Productiv on behalf of the UK’s leading UAV filming specialists BATCAM.
The UAV is powered by fuel cells from Loughborough-based Intelligent Energy, which has a proven track record for producing some of the world’s lightest and most power-dense fuel cell stacks for commercial UAVs.
Though the project’s initial target was 60 minutes of continuous flight while carrying a 5 kg payload, the purpose-built hydrogen fuel cell powered UAV saw it fly for an uninterrupted 70 minutes carrying a 5 kg payload.
This was achieved on a UAV with below 20 kg maximum take-off mass, using a 6-litre cylinder containing hydrogen gas compressed to 300 bar.
The project, which will complete early in 2019, should bring major benefits for companies involved in mining, agriculture, surveying and monitoring, security, and emergency services.
Intelligent Energy has completed the integration work and BATCAM has advised on design requirements, project targets and has piloted the test flights.
In addition, Intelligent Energy is commissioning and trialling a user-friendly, cost-effective, portable refuelling solution from NanoSUN, a specialist supplier of hydrogen fuel systems.
Commenting on the record, project leader Jonathan Reed said that: “The effectiveness of UAVs is limited by their flight time and payload capacity. This innovation opens up new opportunities for commercial UAV operators.”
“Operators need longer flight times than can be delivered with batteries and are therefore seeking alternative power sources with higher power density. Hydrogen power has huge potential here, and we anticipate a significant growth in the market for hydrogen-powered UAVs in the next few years.”
Image, video and content: Productiv