TU Delft, in cooperation with the Royal Netherlands Navy and the Netherlands Coastguard, has developed a hydrogen-powered drone that can stay airborne in stable flight for over 3.5 hours due to a combination of hydrogen and batteries making up its power source. It can also take off and land almost anywhere.
Up to now, many drones have been engineered but none have had this model's unique characteristics. These characteristics are essential for flying over densely populated areas or the open sea in order to complete maritime applications.
“That is why we developed a drone that can take off and land vertically using hydrogen plus a battery set, and that during the horizontal hydrogen-powered flight can recharge the battery via a fuel cell, ready for the vertical landing. The fixed-wing design and the use of hydrogen means the drone can fly horizontally for hours at a time," said Bart Remes, Project Manager at the Micro Air Vehicle Lab (MAVLab) of TU Delft.
The novel efficient drone weighs 13 kilograms (28.6 pounds) and has a wingspan of three meters (10 feet). It is further powered by 12 motors ensuring that even if several motors fail, it can still land safely.
Most importantly, the drone, equipped with a 300-bar, 6.8-liter carbon composite hydrogen cylinder, is very green offering a sustainable option for maritime missions and other applications. “One of the most important aspects of this research project is the hydrogen-powered flight. Worldwide, hydrogen is seen as one of the most important contenders for achieving green and sustainable aviation fuel," said Henri Werij, Dean of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft.
The fully electric drone's only emissions are oxygen and water vapor. But don't let that fool you! It also features a set of batteries that together with the fuel cell provide extra power to the motors during the vertical take-off and landing. Quite a piece of advanced engineering!