Germany-based Wingcopter will partner with the ZAL Centre of Applied Aeronautical Research to develop a hydrogen-powered version of its W198 drone.
Wingcopter hopes to conduct the maiden flight of its hydrogen-powered drone this year, the drone maker told Cargo Facts, adding that it would examine the certification process during the development of the propulsion system.
The company’s current electrically powered W198 drone is a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL)-capable drone that has the capacity to deliver 6 kg total, with a range and speed of 59 nautical miles and knots. The W198 also currently features avionics like ADS-B, remote ID and FLARM, as well as a backup parachute.
Wingcopter said that it intends to start by using hydrogen fuel as a pressurized gas but is working to develop a liquid hydrogen option. For manned aircraft, companies like Zero Avia have retrofitted existing aircraft to operate on hydrogen power by adding pressurized tanks to store the gas. The addition of these large tanks for the hydrogen gas often leads to increased drag, which changes aircraft performance.
For its drone, Wingcopter told Cargo Facts that it is aiming for a compact solution to avoid changing the drone’s body structure but is still developing it. The manufacturer added that its goal for the new design will enable significantly more range without compromising speed and payload.
In addition to Wingcopter, other companies are also planning hydrogen-powered drones. U.K.-based Dronamics will modify the existing version of its Black Swan drone while Israel-based Heven is developing a hydrogen-powered drone called the H2D 55 that is capable of carrying 7 kg of cargo at speeds of 29 knots for around 100 minutes.
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