Hydrogen takes to the sky

Aerial drones have already changed the face of warfare and become a favoured toy for the technorati. Now they look set to shake up commercial delivery systems as well, with Google and Amazon prepping competing drone delivery systems for launch over the next eighteen months.

Drones are still held back, however, by their power sources. The high energy demand of keeping a robot in the air means that range and flight time of commercial drones is quite limited. Sensing an opening, Intelligent Energy has developed a hydrogen fuel cell aimed squarely at the drone market. The company claims that their cell can extend airtime from the current 30 minutes or so, to several hours. It would also allow for a much quicker refueling system than would be possible with traditional batteries.

The claims have yet to be tested on an industrial scale, but Intelligent has issued a press release announcing a partnership with a ‘major drone manufacturer.

Hydrogen’s biggest commercial barrier is the inertia in existing transportation systems. To see mass adoption of hydrogen cars will require a vast program of refitting petroleum stations to utilise a new technology. Drones, though, are a new frontier, and the infrastructure is still being built. This may give hydrogen a real chance to shine against its competitors – if the technology can fulfill its potential.