Intelligent Energy, the British energy technology company, announced that it has developed a prototype of a hydrogen fuel cell for powering small drones.
The invention addresses one of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers of battery-powered drones – the short battery life.
Intelligent Energy’s range extender combines ultra-lightweight fuel cell stack with a battery to offer up to several hours of drone flight time, which is much longer than the typical 20 minutes maximum flight times seen today.
The unit also significantly reduces the time required for recharging between flights. The company’s range extender takes an average of two minutes to be fully recharged, whereas a typical battery used to power drones takes one to two hours to recharge.
“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 and range,” said Julian Hughes, 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 re-fuel opens a wide range of new commercial possibilities for businesses such as drones for inspection of offshore platforms, search and rescue, high quality aerial photography, precision agriculture and parcel delivery and more. Given we also have the ability to tailor solutions to customer requirements, this could completely revolutionise the potential of drone technology.”
The company said that its prototypical hybrid fuel cell drone range extender will be shown at a special Intelligent Energy Embedded World event at CES 2016, where attendees will get a first-hand look at the impact fuel cells can have on devices ranging from smartphones and tablets to drones.