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.