Is hydrogen the future of the drone?


Boeing Phantom EyeEven more than in the automotive sector, the autonomy of UAVs is a key elements in their adoption if autonomy limited to a few minutes is not very annoying for a fun use for professionals should move with multiple sets of costly strong batteries to ensure a mission. Unlike automobile, the weight is the number 1 enemy and it quickly reached the limits of the Lithium-Ion battery more efficient. There again, hydrogen appears as an interesting solution and will allow to increase the autonomy of the drones. However, fly canisters of highly flammable hydrogen in drones of all sizes has nothing very reassuring. Engineers are increasing the head to find a way to ship hydrogen in a drone safely.

Hydrogen engines of Boeing’s Phantom Eye gives it 4 days of autonomy

Able to fly 4 full days to nearly 20,000 m altitude, Boeing’s Phantom Eye is a non-standard drone. The secret of this drone is that it is powered with hydrogen, the rotund fuselage hiding 2 huge tanks of liquid hydrogen with a capacity that is greater than 3000 litres. Mode of propulsion of this drone is quite unique because this hydrogen is consumed by 2 piston Ford engines everything there is classic that have been adapted. This technical solution is acceptable by the US military who want the descendant of this Phantom Eye a drone equipped with a laser to shoot down incoming missiles, it is obviously incompatible with civil use.

as well as by car, hydrogen interested developers of drone to power electric motors. A fuel cell that produces electricity from hydrogen allows to significantly extend the autonomy of a car and, a fortiori, a drone. The solution is obviously much more complex as a motor powered by a battery, but engineers are starting to get the first results of miniaturized systems and they are very encouraging.

The Canadian EnergyOr Technologies Inc. has thus developed a type PEM ( polymer electrolyte membrane) fuel cell, which allowed to fly a small drone multidirectional 3 hours, 43 minutes and 48 seconds against 2 h 12 min and 46s to the previous record. Its designer market this drone named H2Quad 400 with an amperage of 450 W continuous power or 1000 W peak for a total capacity of 900 Wh.

The coupling between a fuel cell and a LiPo (lithium polymer) battery had allowed the same company to fly his PEREGRINE H2 flying wings for more than 10 hours in 2011.

Solid state hydrogen storage solutions begin to appear on drones

Le drone Skyblade 360 et sa cartouche à hydrogène en dessous présentés lors du salon aéronautique Singapore Airshow 2016 (Photo: BusinessWire)

The Skyblade 360 drone and its hydrogen cartridge below presented during the Airshow Singapore Airshow 2016 (Photo: BusinessWire)

Another company working on this track of hydrogen, British Cella Energy. On 19 January a drone hydrogen began its tests by the SAMS (Scottish Association for Marine Science). Arcola Energy has developed a propulsion system that relies on solid state hydrogen storage technology developed by Cella Energy. The material, which is stable up to 500 °, generates a large amount of hydrogen coming to feed the fuel of the drone cell. Cella energy has partnered with the Safran’s Herakles division (today part of Airbus-saffron Launchers).

This track of solid hydrogen is also carved by a Singaporean consortium HES Energy Systems, ST Aerospace, DSO National Laboratories, as well as the Ministry of defence of the archipelago. They were unveiled during the last Singapore 2016 a cartridge with a capacity of one litre capable of delivering 1,000 Wh. So rigged, a drone Skyblade 360 of ST Engineering has managed to hold the air for 6 hours and perform a flight of 300 km. According to the designers of this cartridge, the cost per flying hour is only $10.


Translation : Bing Translator


New Solid Hydrogen – on – Demand Fuel Cell from HES Energy Systems Flies ST Aerospace UAV for Record 6 Hours”, press release BusinessWire, February 16, 2016

“cella Energy Solid Hydrogen Fuelled UAV Completes First Flight”, UST, 11 February 2016

Energyor demonstrates multirotor UAV flight of 3 hours, 43 minutes“, Energyor press release, June 12, 2015

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