A new world record has been set by a clean-energy powered drone which completed a successful flight of 70 minutes setting a new benchmark for flight time and payload in the commercial Unmanned Aerial vehicle (UAV) industry.
In the collaborative project RACHEL, supported by Innovate UK and led by venture engineering company Productiv on behalf of the UK’s leading UAV filming specialists BATCAM, the purpose-built fuel cell powered UAV or drone remained airborne for an uninterrupted 70 minutes carrying a 5kg payload. This was achieved on the UAV with below 20kg maximum take-off mass, using a 6-litre cylinder containing hydrogen gas compressed to 300 bar.
BATCAM aims to conduct real-world end-user trials completing the project by early 2019. Successful completion of the project could bring huge benefits in industrial sectors such as mining, agriculture, surveying and monitoring, security, and emergency services. Fuel cell engineering company Intelligent Energy contributed with integration work and BATCAM worked on design requirements, project targets and piloting the test flights. Intelligent Energy is commissioning and trialling a user-friendly, cost-effective, portable refuelling solution from NanoSUN, a specialist supplier of hydrogen fuel systems. Productiv’s role involves programme management, business model planning, design for manufacture and supply chain optimisation.
Jonathan Reed of Productiv commented: “The effectiveness of UAVs is limited by their flight time and payload capacity. This innovation opens up new opportunities for commercial UAV operators. Hydrogen power has huge potential here, and we anticipate a significant growth in the market for hydrogen-powered UAVs in the next few years.”
Jon Hurndall, CEO of BATCAM, commented “I congratulate all partners on this fantastic achievement. A 60-minute-plus flight time with a large payload creates many opportunities, not only with our existing broadcast clients but in other commercial markets and sectors. We are eager to explore these opportunities in 2019.”
David Woolhouse, CEO at Intelligent Energy, said: “The advantages of fuel cells over batteries for our customers are clear; fast refuelling, no vibration, quiet operation, zero emission at point of use and three times more flight time than batteries. Fuel cells are a game-changer for the commercial UAV market.”
More information about the project and the flight test is available at www.thehydrogendrone.com