Intelligent Energy, a developer of hydrogen fuel cell power systems, says it has signed a letter of intent (LOI) with a major drone manufacturer to develop unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
Under the agreement, the companies will work together during the first quarter of this year to develop technological solutions to increase drone flight time. According to Intelligent Energy, the goal is to ink to a formal arrangement to roll out the solutions commercially.
Headquartered in Loughborough, U.K., Intelligent Energy also has operations in India, Japan and Singapore; a commercial office in California’s Silicon Valley; and development facilities co-located at the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission in Grenoble, France, and NASA in Florida.
The company says powering a UAS with a hydrogen fuel cell could enable the aircraft to fly for hours. Although the exact improvements to flight times will not be known until the production drone is finalized, Intelligent Energy’s expectation is that a fuel cell could more than double or even triple the time a drone could remain airborne. In addition, fuel cells would reduce the downtime significantly, considering re-fueling would take a matter of minutes.
“Our embedded fuel cell technology was well received at CES, and we have had huge levels of interest from manufacturers, so we are, of course, absolutely delighted to be signing our first letter of intent on the back of the show,” says Julian Hughes, acting managing director for Intelligent Energy’s consumer electronics division. “Major shortcomings to drone development are range and flight time. Using fuel cells to power a drone can markedly increase the flight time. A longer flight time – and, therefore, increased range – means drones become much more viable for commercial use. We see the signing of this LOI as a very important step to the commercialization of fuel cells in drones.”