A hydrogen-powered drone jointly developed by researchers at TU Delft, The Royal Netherlands Navy and the Dutch Coastguard Service, has completed successful trials on open seas.
Capable of vertical take-off and landing whilst also being able to fly horizontally efficiently for several hours, the hydrogen innovation operates much like a regular aircraft, by using a combination of hydrogen and batteries as its power source.
Equipped with a 300 bar, 6.8 litre carbon composite hydrogen cylinder which feeds hydrogen at low pressure to the 800w fuel cell that converts it to electricity, the only emissions produced from the drone are oxygen and water vapour.
In addition to the fuel cell that supplies electricity to the motors, there is also a set of batteries that together with the fuel cell provide extra power to the motors during the vertical take-off and landing.
The first successful tests of the drone took place from a ship sailing on open seas, meaning it had to fly over densely populated areas or the open sea, and needs to be able to take off and land vertically.
Although necessary, these requirements drain a lot of power from the battery and are detrimental to the flight duration. Fossil fuels are often used to increase the aircraft range and endurance, meaning few drones have been developed that can sustainably fly long distances and take off and land almost anywhere.
Bart Remes, Project Manager of the Micro Aerial Vehicle Lab (MAVLab) at TU Delft: “That is why we developed a drone that can take off and land vertically using hydrogen plus a battery set, and that during the horizontal hydrogen-powered flight can recharge the battery via a fuel cell, ready for the vertical landing.
“The fixed-wing design and the use of hydrogen means the drone can fly horizontally for hours at a time.”