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One of the challenges confronted by hydrogen-powered drone operators is getting fuel. Around the world, hydrogen fueling stations currently are few and far between. According to the US Department of Energy, the US has just 44 publicly accessible hydrogen fueling stations and 42 of them are in California. 84 of Europe’s 175-plus stations are in Germany. The scarcity has impacted the time and cost of using hydrogen fuel cells in drone operations. The transportation of full, UAV-compatible Hydrogen cylinders is not permitted in Europe or the United States—they must be filled at hydrogen fueling stations.
Intelligent Energy, a UK.-based manufacturer of lightweight fuel cell power modules for UAVs, has introduced a high-pressure valve that will enable drone operators to legally transport full cylinders of hydrogen to power their UAVs.
The company claims that its IE-Soar fuel cells solution can power drones three times longer than LiPo (Lithium Polymer) batteries.
Hydrogen-powered drones can stay airborne far longer than LiPo (lithium-ion polymer) drones without needing multiple batteries and launch points. Hydrogen is combined in the fuel cell with oxygen from the air to produce electricity; as long as hydrogen fuel is provided to the cell, the battery generates power.
This makes the drones valuable for long-range missions such as gathering aerial data or performing long-range deliveries and inspections, or for applications requiring larger drones and payloads. Hydrogen batteries also work well in extreme cold weather, can be refueled in minutes and don’t emit greenhouse gasses like long-range, gas-powered drones do, according to insideunmannedsystems.com.