Researchers at the Technical University of Delft, in the Netherlands, have just entered into a partnership with the Coast Guard and the Royal Navy of the Netherlands for the development of a hydrogen powered drone that is capable of flying for hours like a normal aircraft, and landing on deck of a ship.
Although there are already drones that use hydrogen as fuel, these devices fly very slowly or are unable to land vertically. The prototype used by TU Delft researchers proved to be capable of taking off and landing vertically on a ship at sea, as well as flight autonomy of several hours.
Vertical take-off and landing procedures are the most energy-consuming on traditional drones. The demand for power means that electric drones have difficulty taking off and landing because these actions have a negative impact on battery life.
The alternative would be to use fossil fuels, which are polluting. So the drone used by the Delft team uses a combination of hydrogen and batteries as an energy source. The power of hydrogen and the fixed-wing design allow the device to fly horizontally over long distances.
The operation of the new drone
Sustainability is the big difference of the drone. Inside, there is a hydrogen cylinder with 6.8 liters carbon of 300 bar. The cylinder feeds hydrogen at low pressure to the 800 W fuel cell that converts to electricity. The only type of emission is oxygen and water vapor.
In addition to the fuel cell, there is also a set of batteries that provide extra power to the engines during vertical takeoff and landing. With this, the drone can remain in the air for more than three and a half hours, a time considered sufficient by the maritime authorities for reconnaissance and inspection tasks.