Researchers at Delft University of Technology have worked with the Royal Netherlands Navy (HNLMS) and the Coast Guard to develop an unmanned aircraft that is environmentally friendly, can take off vertically and stay in the air longer than any other current model of similar size. The built-in hydrogen fuel cells provide enough power for the 12 engines installed.
At the start of the drone, the electric motors are powered by onboard batteries, while in flight an 800-watt fuel cell takes care of this and recharges the excess power back into the batteries. The only substance emitted during the operation of the robotic aircraft is steam. The fuel cell is operated by a 6.8 liter hydrogen tank. The unmanned aircraft will remain operational even if some of its engines fail. It has a span of 3 meters and weighs 13 kilograms.
Although there are already drones with fuel cells, they cannot take off and land vertically and cannot fly over the sea or land for long periods of time. Bart Remes, of the Micro Air Vehicle Lab (MAVLab) and project manager at Delft University of Technology, also pointed out that the types involved are too slow to detect accidents or disasters.
The robotic aircraft was tested not only in a wind tunnel, but also with ships of the Royal Netherlands Navy and the Coast Guard. Pieter Blank, Innovation Commander of the Royal Netherlands Navy, said the hydrogen-powered unmanned aircraft is a real technical breakthrough and has great future potential.