Fuel cell could let drones fly for hours without recharging
Last May, we heard about how Horizon Energy Systems was developing a hydrogen-powered quadcopter that could (hopefully) stay airborne for hours at a time. Soon, however, that drone may not be the only one doing so. That's because Intelligent Energy has unveiled a fuel cell/battery range extender that could become standard equipment on third-party drones.
The idea behind the system is that an onboard hydrogen fuel cell generates electricity, and that electricity is in turn used to charge a linked battery. Not only should this greatly extend how long the drone can go between recharges, but those recharges should only take a couple of minutes – the fuel cell will simply need to be refilled, using a dedicated cartridge.
According to the Intelligent Energy's head of PR, Debbie Hughes, flight times of drones using the system will vary depending on the size of the aircraft. "You could have more fuel on a larger drone meaning a longer flight time, but we believe in the region of two hours," she tells us.
In flight tests of the system, it delivered power consistently enough to allow an onboard camera to record video continuously, with no interruptions.
The range extender was unveiled last week at CES, as was Walkera's methanol-fueled range extender for drones. Intelligent Energy is now seeking commercial partners, who would be interested in integrating the technology into their aircraft.