Drones

Fuel cell drone makes an epic ocean crossing

Fuel cell drone makes an epic ...
Guinn Partners founder Colin Guinn, seen here on a previous occasion with the rather huge DMI DS30
Guinn Partners founder Colin Guinn, seen here on a previous occasion with the rather huge DMI DS30
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Guinn Partners founder Colin Guinn, seen here on a previous occasion with the rather huge DMI DS30
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Guinn Partners founder Colin Guinn, seen here on a previous occasion with the rather huge DMI DS30
The DS30 can carry a maximum payload of 5 kg (11 lb)
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The DS30 can carry a maximum payload of 5 kg (11 lb)

Although multicopter drones now are being used to transport medical samples and supplies, their 30-minute (or so) battery life limits their range. This week, however, a hydrogen-powered delivery drone managed a one-hour, 43-minute ocean crossing.

The exercise was the result of a collaboration between Texas-based drone development company Guinn Partners, Georgia-based Skyfire Consulting, the US Department of Health, and drone manufacturer Doosan Mobility Innovation – the latter supplied the aircraft, a hydrogen fuel cell-powered DS30 octocopter.

Utilizing its temperature-controlled payload system, the drone was used to transport live bacteria samples from a hospital on the Caribbean island of St. Croix to a testing facility on the neighboring island of St. Thomas. This involved crossing 43 miles (69 km) of open ocean. Upon successfully reaching its destination, the copter reportedly still had almost 30 minutes of flight time left on its fuel cell.

The DS30 can carry a maximum payload of 5 kg (11 lb)
The DS30 can carry a maximum payload of 5 kg (11 lb)

According to Guinn Partners, it can ordinarily take up to a week before patients' biological fluid samples are transported between the two islands by manned aircraft – in the case of illnesses such as Dengue fever, the infection can progress to dangerous levels within that amount of time. Because using a drone is much cheaper and simpler, though, samples could conceivably be sent to St. Croix immediately.

For this week's flight, a crew followed along beneath the drone in a boat, ready to take manual control if needed. That said, in fully-autonomous test runs planned for the first half of next year, the DS30 will fly completely on its own.

Source: Guinn Partners

8 comments
paul314
Cool! actually useful. Top speed about 30 mph, or was that because they had to have the boat under it? It seems that 100km is around the high end for range these days - would be nice to double or triple it.
buzzclick
Since the headline said "ocean",I immediately had to check the distance of the English Channel, which at the shortest is about 20 miles, which is no problem for this hydrogen-powered drone. Once the bugs get ironed out, the range increased and made dependable this kind of drone-application is far more useful than taxiing people around cities in a noisy environment.
ei3io
VERY cool indeed. The battery only approach in electric flight will suffer competition more as fuel cell weight comes down. The range increase is mainly a fuel container weight issue. Fuel tank volume affects the frontal area at high speeds and high cross or headwinds.
Ray6969
As long as no bio hazards are transported this way, I think it's great!
Worzel
Not only the speed of delivery, but the economy of this system, makes it supremely attractive. Compared to a person carrying a package, by land vehicle and boat/aircraft to other islands it must be considerably cheaper. I'm waiting for the first trans-Atlantic drone crossing.
Bastiaan Kroon
I live and sail in the area and never seen the Caribbean OCEAN on any chart. The headline OCEAN crossing is actually Caribbean SEA crossing. Anyway I will be watching over the horizon and am excited to sea her do the good work for the hospital :-)
Luke Beauchamp
If the boat could travel the same distance at the same speed, why didn't they just transport the samples in the boat?
Andrew Keim
Why don't they use an Open Air Aluminum battery for the drone so store energy generated by the hydrogen fuel cell? I heard the UK inventor said it would hold around 1500 miles worth of charge for a CAR. My friend Supa Boondee in Thailand recreated the Open Air Aluminum battery and is working to make it smaller... So I can imagine a drone that could go halfway across the USA with one charge...