Singapore-based HES Energy Systems has commercially launched a hydrogen (H2) industrial-grade multi-rotor drone designed for large-scale industrial maintenance inspections.

The specialist in ultra-light fuel cells and H2 energy storage systems for UAVs has merged its core technologies with a specially adapted multi-rotor design so that flight durations can extend to 3.5 hours, instead of the typical 20-30 minutes when using lithium batteries.

The new drone, named HYCOPTER, features a H2 multi-rotor system which will now be able to keep precision cameras and other sensors in the air for much longer.

It also includes a new breakthrough 140g pressure regulator capable of reducing H2 pressure from 350 bar to 0.5 bar. Other system components include specially designed HES fuel cell stacks capable of generating over 1W per gram.

PR-Hycopter

Source: HES Energy Systems

“HYCOPTER can recharge in minutes using bottled industrial-grade H2 from local H2 suppliers,” the company explained. “With further improvements, HYCOPTER-type platforms could also enable product deliveries over much longer distances than are possible today.

“In the future, long range cargo drones would be deployed from autonomous H2 ‘droneports’.”

“Versions of HYCOPTER will emerge next in transitional wing VTOL applications, and the same HES core technology is now being scaled up to power manned electric aviation as well as other aerial mobility platforms under discussion with various international aerospace companies.”

Addressing short flight durations is one the final frontiers in drone technology. HES has a long-standing reputation for producing the world’s lightest and most compact fuel cell systems, which can be as much as five times lighter than lithium batteries.

Following a first world distance record set in the US by a NASA-backed team from OSU over 10 years ago, HES has been pushing the limits of its energy storage technology increasingly further, working from Singapore on various UAV programmes and with leading aerospace institutions around the world.