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Intelligent Energy signs LOI with drone manufacturer to develop fuel cell drones

Intelligent Energy has signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with a major drone manufacturer to develop hydrogen fuel cell powered drones. The deal will see the two companies work together in the first quarter of 2016 to develop technological solutions to increase drone flight time. The goal is for the deal to lead to a formal commercial arrangement for the solutions’ rollout.

Pain points for drones, particularly for commercial use, are known to be short flight times and long periods of downtime due to battery limitations and recharging. At CES earlier this month, Intelligent Energy showcased ultra-light weight fuel cell stacks, which it has developed specifically for the drone market, as well as miniaturized fuel cell stacks that can be embedded into smartphones, laptops and notebooks.

Powering a drone with a hydrogen fuel cell could enable it to fly for hours, as opposed to minutes. Although the exact improvements to flight times will not be known until the production drone is finalized, the expectation is that a fuel cell could more than double or even triple the time a drone could remain airborne. In addition, fuel cells would reduce the downtime significantly as re-fueling takes a matter of minutes.



Drone manufacturers and operators are coming to the same conclusion as Toyota, Hyundai and Honda, that FC technology is best suited for extended range with much less refueling time as batteries.

These ultra light efficient clean FCs would benefit small all weather FCEVs, e-bikes etc.


Meanwhile back in the real world.

Drones don't need to travel fast, just stay up for extended periods. O.K. with wing span the size of a 747 may be a bit more of a target. I guess the pilot and navigation is similar weight to the the typical payload for assassin drones but much heavier than high resolution cameras and ordinary scientific equipment.

What was the argument again?

The wings of Solar Impulse 2, which stretch wider than those of a Boeing 747, are equipped with 17,000 solar cells that power propellers and charge batteries. The plane ran on stored energy at night.

The aircraft took off in March from Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, then made stops in Oman, Myanmar and China. It then made an unplanned stop for nearly a month in Japan after high winds damaged a wing.

The Solar Impulse team said it would continue the bid to circumvent the globe, but irreversible damage caused by overheating batteries would ground the flight until at least April.

The batteries on board Solar Impulse 2 overheated on the first day of its trip from Japan to Hawaii, and there was no way to cool down the system, the team said. It said there was no weakness in the technology, but the team had not anticipated temperature fluctuations associated with rapid altitude changes in a tropical climate.

The trans-Pacific leg was the riskiest part of the plane’s global travels, as there was nowhere for it to land in an emergency.

Pilot André Borschberg and his single-seat aircraft landed at Kalaeloa, a small airport outside Honolulu, on 3 July. His voyage of nearly 118 hours from Nagoya, Japan, broke the record for the world’s longest non-stop solo flight, his team said.

The plane’s ideal flight speed is about 28mph (45km/h), though that can double during the day when the sun’s rays are strongest. The carbon-fibre aircraft weighs more than 5,000lbs, or as much as a minivan or mid-sized lorry.

Henry Gibson

Diesel electric locomotives have not been replaced by a single fuel cell electric locomotive. A small RCV engine from the UK could generate electricity from A grade bio-ethanol with much less weight and expense. Bladon jets can also make a very lightweight turbo generator for bigger drones. ..HG.


Trains could be powered by electric driven by SOFC fed by preformers and liquid renewable fuels.

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