A new drone is allowing users to fly for about three hours without needing a change in batteries. It actually doesn’t even run on batteries. This new drone runs on hydrogen power and emits zero CO2 into the atmosphere.
This drone was produced by Doosan Mobility Innovation in collaboration with Fortress Solutions. The latter, based out of Texas, is headed by CEO Brendon Mills who said they hope this technology will change the way drones are used in the future.
In addition to its endurance it also does not produce any carbon while running. “It does not have any emissions to it; it just emits water as it produces electricity,” he said.
What can the drone be used for?
The drone is made by a South Korean Company that is a part of Doosan Group. Mills and his company provide customer service, repairs, and the hydrogen tanks here in the states.
“We’ve partnered with a company in South Korea called Doosan and specifically they have a subsidiary called Doosan Media Interactive and DMI has produced a drone that is called the DS30 and it uses a hydrogen fuel cell technology to power the drone,” he said.
The drone is meant to be used for larger tasks and is designed for commercial use, though it could actually be used by anyone. “So the drone itself is a very large drone. It is about six feet in diameter and it uses hydrogen gas as a fuel as opposed to a battery-operated or a battery-powered drone,” said Mills.
The drone can hold up to 10 pounds while in the air. “Today, most battery powered drones will last about 30 minutes in the air before you have to bring them back down and switch the batteries out,” he said. “The value proposition of using hydrogen gas is that you can have much longer flight times using the gas to power the hydrogen fuel cell.”
He said that that when the drone was designed it was designed to be functional in the space. Doosan even designed the drone to fit cameras and equipment from another popular brand called DJI Drones.
“So, just for example if you are using a drone and you are mapping perhaps farm acreage or your mapping a construction site,” he said.
Instead of spending time bring the drone up and down and switching out batteries you can simply continue to work for over three hours. “If you can leave it in the air for over three hours you can do all of your work in the air without having to refuel it every few minutes, or re-charge it every few minutes,” said Mills.
The Center for Disease Control also thinks they have a use for the drone. “The CDC just did a trial with the drones to deliver blood to the U.S. Virgin islands, specifically St. Thomas, so they can deliver emergency blood to land-based hospitals that may have been affected by a hurricane for example,” he said.
The drone flew 43 miles over the Caribbean during this particular test.
How does the hydrogen work?
The drone is powered by hydrogen in pressurized tanks. “What happens is you force hydrogen gas through a series of membranes and the hydrogen gas loses an electron and it turns into water basically,” he said.
In this way, the drone is able to produce a sizable amount of electricity to power itself and it won’t leave behind an oil slick in its wake.
“So, we have a tank of hydrogen gas attached to the drone and the gas passes through the membranes, of the hydrogen fuel cell it produces electricity which then powers the drone and it just drips water along the way, so it’s emission-free so it’s a pretty interesting technology,” said Mills.
The tech has been around for a while, but making it smaller and more efficient can be good for commercial use.
The Federal Aviation Administration or FAA is working to make drones a vehicle in the air that has to report the air traffic controllers.
“The Federal Aviation Administration is going to require in two years that all drones have a radio identification device mounted to them which will allow air traffic control to see all drones in the air,” he said.
Mills says that this is not only good but welcomed by Fortress and Doosan as more regulation could open up an industry that doesn’t yet exist. “This is a really good regulatory advancement for the industry in that this is going to allow for the autonomous flights of drones,” said Mills.
To refuel the drones, Fortress Solutions has a subsidiary company called ReadyH2. They make and supply all of the pressurized hydrogen tanks.
“These tanks are pressurized to 5000 pound per square inch but are incredibly safe tanks they are wrapped in carbon fiber and they’ve been dropped from several thousand feet in the air on the concrete, they’ve been shot with shot guns and rifles to make sure they don’t puncture,” he said.
Mills added that although their company offers training, the tanks are safe for anyone to use. They have been tested to ensure that they can be used on a wide scale. “They’re very safe, however, you still need to understand that the tank is under high pressure and there are certain things that that you would need to know in handling the hydrogen,” said Mills.
He said that it was much like propane tanks. They are safe but you should be aware or what’s inside and what proper handling looks like.
“Consumers today are very used to handling propane tanks for barbecue grills and everything else — it’s not much different than that but it is a higher pressure than propane gas tanks,” he said.
ReadyH2 is supplying companies with hydrogen tanks for the drones starting this month.