Powering the Future of Drones

Posted on January 29, 2016

Filed under Informative, News    Tagged with Drones, fuel cells, hydrogen, embedded, embedded fuel cells, refuelling, fuel cell, drone power

The drone industry saw dramatic growth in the past year and is showing no signs of slowing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that over 300,000 people have registered as drone owners in the US alone, as of January 2016, after estimating that 1 million drones were sold during the 2015 Christmas period. Outside of consumer markets, drones also continue to find numerous, new commercial applications. In the UK, the police force will soon start to use drones in high-risk situations.

A recent UberGizmo article highlighted how drones are being used in California by “citizen scientists” to map El Nino flooding. AllAfrica.com featured a story about drones being used to gather crop data, which is “important for planning, policymaking and timely interventions to address food security.” And Newsweek reported how healthcare in overcrowded cities may be transformed with medical drones that deliver transplant organs from one hospital to another.

But for drones to truly live up to their potential in the above scenarios – especially in the last one where every second counts – they need to overcome two significant obstacles – limited flight time and range.

Currently, batteries provide drones with a limited flight time and need to be recharged for multiple hours between flights. This is simply too prohibitive to have widespread commercial applicability. But this could all change….

This week, we announced that we are now working with a major drone manufacturer to develop hydrogen fuel cell powered drones – with the aim of significantly extending flight time.

This major milestone comes on the heels of a successful Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas where we unveiled a prototype of a hydrogen fuel cell powered range extender for drones. The range extender offers longer flight time and fast re-fuel capabilities, addressing two of the biggest challenges for manufacturers of battery-powered drones. Powering a drone with a hydrogen fuel cell could enable it to fly for hours, as opposed to minutes. In addition, fuel cells would reduce the downtime significantly as re-fuelling takes only a matter of minutes.

With more than double or triple the flight time, what new opportunities could be possible for commercial drones? These new power advances are about to help us find out. For more information, please visit intelligent-energy.com/embedded.

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