New Hydrogen Fuel Cell-Powered Multirotor Drone Unveiled

Published: 12 Nov 2018

HES fuel cell powered HYCOPTER drone

HES Energy Systems has announced the launch of HYCOPTER, an industrial-grade multi-rotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed for large-scale industrial maintenance inspections.

Addressing short flight durations is one of the final frontiers in drone technology. HES has a long-standing reputation for producing extremely light and compact fuel cell systems, which can be as much as 5 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 programs and with leading aerospace institutions around the world.

HES is currently capable of over 700Wh/kg system-level specific energy and is working to push this limit even further thanks to a variety of novel technologies. After many years of work, HES 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 hydrogen multi-rotor system will be able to keep precision cameras and other sensors in the air for much longer, opening up new commercial use cases while reducing operational costs for service providers. HYCOPTER was designed in Austin, Texas where a local production base is being set up.

HYCOPTER includes a new breakthrough 140g pressure regulator capable of reducing hydrogen 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.

HYCOPTER can recharge in minutes using bottled industrial-grade hydrogen from local hydrogen suppliers. 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 hydrogen “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.

UAV Propulsion Tech is the authorized distributor of HES Energy Systems’ products in the USA.

Posted by Mike Ball Mike is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passions for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years.

Contact UAV Propulsion Tech

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.