Wirth Research has unveiled the design of its tilt-rotor, vertical take off and landing (VTOL) drone. The company claims its all-new Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) will be the first in the world to use lightweight hydrogen fuel cells as its primary energy source, for a combination of long range and environmentally-friendly performance.

Why run with hydrogen power instead of pure electric? To deliver six hours of flight time with a full payload, Singapore-based HES, will provide a power source with significantly higher energy density than regular lithium-ion batteries. Whereas as conventional rechargeable batteries offer 200 Wh/kg, HES CEO Taras Wankewycz says the lightweight hydrogen fuel cell to be used in Wirth's drone offers 700 Wh/kg.

This high energy-to-weight ratio will give the drone the power to take off and land vertically while carrying a hefty payload – both capabilities that will come in handy for its primary intended application of terrain mapping. For such missions, the drone will be required to carry (and continually power) a huge range of sensors, including stereo high-resolution gimbaled optical cameras, high-resolution infra-red sensors, LIDAR imagers and ground-penetrating radar.

The company hasn't revealed full specifics, but claims the drone's payload and VTOL capabilities, coupled with its six-hour endurance and zero local emissions will also make it attractive for an array of other applications, such as pipeline or cable inspection, surveillance for security forces, or mine clearance operations. It has also flagged development of future versions of the drone for cargo transportation applications.

However, when any version will actually take to the air remains a mystery for now.

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