Hydrogen Fuel Cell Propulsion Systems for Drones and UAVs

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Ballard Power Systems is a global developer of innovative clean energy solutions and hydrogen fuel cells for drones and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). Designed for reliable operation even in extreme environments, Ballard drone fuel cell systems enhance mission endurance and range, opening up BVLOS (beyond-visual-line-of-sight) possibilities for unmanned aircraft.

Ballard’s drone hydrogen fuel cell systems have been successfully flown aboard a variety of fixed-wing and multirotor UAV platforms, including leading-edge aircraft from Insitu, Aerovironment, Lockheed-Martin, and more.

Fuel Cell Propulsion Systems

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology for Drones and UAVs

Hydrogen Fuel Cells for Drones

Operators of drones used for industrial, commercial and defense missions, are increasingly demanding drones with enhanced range and flight endurance capabilities, in order to fly further and for longer.

Hydrogen fuel cells offer a number of distinct advantages over standard drone power solutions and propulsion systems.

Batteries are heavy with a low relative energy density, providing only enough power for short-endurance drone missions with a typical recharge time that is much longer than the provided flight duration. The use of hydrogen fuel cells can boost UAV mission length and distance by up to three times, with quick and easy refuelling that can be accomplished in less than five minutes.

Internal combustion engines provide much higher energy densities than batteries, but suffer from a much higher initial cost, as well as requiring extensive regular maintenance and overhaul. Hydrogen fuel cells provide quiet, reliable, low-maintenance operation, as well as being a clean energy solution with zero emissions.

Key advantages and benefits of Hydrogen Fuel Cells for Drones:

  • Extended mission range and endurance, enabling BVLOS UAV missions for greater efficiency
  • Quiet and reliable low-maintenance operation with zero emissions
  • Rapid refuelling, typically taking less than five minutes
  • Safe and readily available fuel source
  • More efficient operation at higher altitudes than internal combustion engines
  • Scalable technology can be connected in parallel to provide required power.

FCair™ Hydrogen Drone Fuel Cells

Enhanced‌ ‌long-endurance‌ ‌operation‌ ‌for‌ ‌drones‌ ‌and‌ ‌UAVs‌

Ballard’s‌ ‌FCair™‌ ‌solution‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌complete‌ ‌drone‌ ‌hydrogen‌ ‌fuel‌ ‌cell‌ ‌power‌ ‌package,‌ ‌based‌ ‌around‌ ‌either‌ ‌a‌ ‌600‌ ‌or‌ ‌1200W‌ ‌liquid-cooled‌ ‌fuel‌ ‌cell‌ ‌and‌ ‌encompassing‌ ‌everything‌ ‌required‌ ‌for‌ ‌hydrogen-powered‌ ‌UAV‌ ‌flight,‌ ‌including:‌

  • Control‌ ‌electronics‌ ‌
  • Heat‌ ‌exchanger‌ ‌
  • Pressure‌ ‌regulator‌
  • Hydrogen‌ ‌storage‌ ‌vessels‌ ‌and‌ ‌rapid‌ ‌refuelling‌ ‌solution‌ ‌
  • Optional‌ ‌integrated‌ ‌battery‌ ‌power‌ ‌hybridization.
Hydrogen fuel cell for drones and UAVs

FCair™‌ ‌600‌ hydrogen fuel cell

The‌ ‌FCair™‌ ‌systems‌ ‌are‌ ‌engineered‌ ‌to‌ ‌deliver‌ ‌next-generation‌ ‌competitive‌ ‌advantages‌ ‌over‌ ‌lithium‌ ‌batteries‌ ‌and‌ ‌internal‌ ‌combustion‌ ‌engines,‌ ‌with‌ ‌three‌ ‌times‌ ‌more‌ ‌run-time‌ ‌than‌ ‌the‌ ‌best‌ ‌batteries,‌ ‌and‌ ‌five‌ ‌times‌ ‌the‌ ‌reliability‌ ‌of‌ ‌small‌ ‌engines.‌ ‌The‌ ‌liquid-cooled‌ ‌systems‌ ‌deliver‌ ‌reliable‌ ‌operation‌ ‌in‌ ‌hot‌ ‌or‌ ‌cold‌ ‌weather,‌ ‌and‌ ‌in‌ ‌high‌ ‌or‌ ‌low‌ ‌humidity.‌ ‌

Designed‌ ‌with‌ ‌commercial‌ ‌UAV‌ ‌operations‌ ‌in‌ ‌mind‌ ‌and‌ ‌tested‌ ‌on‌ ‌military-grade‌ ‌platforms,‌ ‌FCair™‌ ‌is‌ ‌available‌ ‌in‌ ‌two‌ ‌variants:‌ ‌

FCair™‌ ‌600‌ ‌-‌ ‌600‌ ‌watt‌ ‌fuel‌ ‌cell‌ ‌power‌ ‌system‌ ‌for‌ ‌small‌ ‌fixed‌ ‌wing‌ ‌and‌ ‌ultra-efficient‌ ‌hybrid‌ ‌VTOL‌ ‌platforms.‌ ‌

FCair™‌ ‌1200‌ ‌-‌ ‌1200‌ ‌watt‌ ‌system‌ ‌for‌ ‌heavy‌ ‌lift‌ ‌multirotor‌ ‌and‌ ‌larger‌ ‌fixed-wing‌ ‌and‌ ‌hybrid‌ ‌VTOL‌ ‌platforms.‌ ‌Available‌ ‌as‌ ‌single‌ ‌1200W‌ ‌module‌ ‌or‌ ‌two‌ ‌parallel‌ ‌600W‌ ‌systems‌ ‌for‌ ‌flexible‌ ‌integration.‌

FCair™‌ ‌1200 hydrogen fuel cell

FCair™‌ ‌1200 hydrogen fuel cell‌

Both‌ ‌the‌ ‌FCair™‌ ‌600‌ ‌and‌ ‌1200‌ ‌can‌ ‌be‌ ‌hybridised‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌lithium‌ ‌polymer‌ ‌battery,‌ ‌allowing‌ ‌the‌ ‌fuel‌ ‌cell‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌optimized‌ ‌around‌ ‌nominal‌ ‌rather‌ ‌than‌ ‌peak‌ ‌power‌ ‌demand.‌ ‌The‌ ‌hybrid‌ ‌battery‌ ‌provides‌ ‌short‌ ‌duration‌ ‌differences‌ ‌in‌ ‌power‌ ‌between‌ ‌nominal‌ ‌and‌ ‌peak‌ ‌demand,‌ ‌and‌ ‌can‌ ‌be‌ ‌charged‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌primary‌ ‌power‌ ‌system‌ ‌during‌ ‌nominal‌ ‌operation.‌

Specifications:

FCair‌™‌‌ ‌600‌FCair‌™‌‌ ‌1200‌
Dimensions‌ ‌(LxWxH)‌9.5‌ ‌x‌ ‌6.7‌ ‌x‌ ‌5.5‌ ‌in‌17.0‌ ‌x‌ ‌10.5‌ ‌x‌ ‌6.5‌ ‌in‌
Weight‌1.8‌ ‌kg‌4.0‌ ‌kg‌
Continuous‌ ‌Net‌ ‌Output‌ Power‌
(fuel‌ ‌cell‌ ‌only)‌
0‌ ‌–‌ ‌650‌ ‌W‌0‌ ‌–‌ ‌1300‌ ‌W‌
Peak‌ ‌Net‌ ‌Output‌ ‌Power‌
(fuel‌ ‌cell‌ ‌w/‌ ‌battery)‌
1000‌ ‌W‌2000‌ ‌W‌
Service‌ ‌Life‌3000‌ ‌hrs‌3000‌ ‌hrs‌

Hydrogen‌ ‌Fuel‌ ‌Cell‌ ‌Drone Applications:

Drone hydrogen fuel cell

Ballard’s‌ ‌FCair‌ ‌hydrogen‌ ‌fuel‌ ‌cell‌ ‌solutions‌ ‌for‌ ‌drones‌ ‌are‌ ‌ideal‌ ‌for‌ ‌enabling‌ ‌a‌ ‌range‌ ‌of‌ ‌BVLOS‌ ‌operations‌ ‌for‌ ‌fixed-wing,‌ ‌multi-rotor‌ ‌and‌ ‌hybrid‌ ‌VTOL‌ ‌UAVs,‌ ‌maximising‌ ‌efficiency‌ ‌and‌ ‌minimising‌ ‌operational‌ ‌cost.‌ ‌Potential‌ ‌applications‌ ‌include:‌ ‌

Precision‌ ‌agriculture ‌–‌ ‌monitoring‌ ‌and‌ ‌surveying‌ ‌large‌ ‌areas‌ ‌of‌ ‌farmland‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌single‌ ‌flight,‌ efficiently‌ ‌gathering‌ ‌data‌ ‌on‌ ‌crop‌ ‌health,‌ ‌mineral‌ ‌levels,‌ ‌pest‌ ‌proliferation‌ ‌and‌ ‌more.‌ ‌

‌Infrastructure‌ ‌and‌ ‌utilities‌ ‌–‌ ‌inspecting‌ ‌and‌ ‌surveying‌ ‌power‌ ‌lines,‌ ‌pipelines,‌ ‌roads,‌ ‌railways‌ ‌and‌ ‌other‌ ‌critical‌ ‌assets.‌ ‌

Surveillance‌ ‌and‌ ‌security ‌–‌ ‌providing‌ ‌persistent‌ ‌intelligence‌ ‌and‌ ‌situational‌ ‌awareness‌ ‌for‌ ‌protection‌ ‌of‌ ‌airports,‌ ‌borders,‌ ‌ports‌ ‌and‌ ‌valuable‌ ‌commercial‌ ‌assets,‌ ‌as‌ ‌well‌ ‌as‌ ‌for‌ ‌search‌ ‌and‌ ‌rescue.‌

Learn more about Ballard:

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Propulsion Systems for Drones and UAVs
Ballard Power Systems Contact Directly Follow Company
Ballard Ballard Unmanned Systems, Inc.
153 Northboro Road, Southborough, MA 01772-1034 USA
+1 508-687-4970 [email protected] Visit Website
Protonex 153 Northboro Road, Southborough, MA 01772-1034 USA +1-508-490-9960 [email protected] Visit Website