Intelligent Energy Debuts Hydrogen Fuel Cells to Extend Drone Flights

Intelligent Energy Debuts Hydrogen Fuel Cells to Extend Drone Flights

Intelligent Energy’s hybrid fuel cell on a drone

Las Vegas, NV—At CES, Intelligent Energy is exhibiting a prototype hydrogen fuel cell range extender for drones. It’s said to offer longer flight time as well as fast refuel capabilities. As a result, it addresses two of the challenges for manufacturers of battery-powered drones.

By combining an ultra lightweight fuel cell stack with a battery, Intelligent Energy’s range extender is engineered to provide several hours of drone flight time. As a result, flight time would be vastly improved over the typical 20 minutes. Fuel cells also can reduce the downtime currently required for recharging between flights. Furthermore, according to the company, this could reduce from one to two hours to an average of two minutes.

“Drones are one of the most exciting new technologies. Even with advanced batteries their value is limited. For commercial use, they need to offer better flight times as well as range,” said Julian Hughes, director, Group Business Development Director, and acting managing director for Intelligent Energy’s Consumer Electronics Division. “That will all become possible with the release of our range extender platform.”
A longer flight time coupled with a quick refuel opens a wider range of commercial possibilities for businesses. This could include drones for high-quality aerial photography, search and rescue, precision agriculture and parcel delivery.

Fuel Cell and Battery Testing

For the past 14 months, Intelligent Energy has independently tested drones with fuel cell and battery hybrid systems. Flight tests were conducted on two configurations. One was solely powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. The other was powered by a fuel cell-battery hybrid system. A camera was operated on the test flights and was found to record a steady image with no interruptions, a critical feature for commercial drone use.

The prototype hybrid fuel cell drone range extender is being shown at the Intelligent Energy Embedded World event at CES 2016. Visitors can get a firsthand look at the impact fuel cells can have on devices ranging from smartphones to drones.