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Research project

Hydrogen Drone

Project overview

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are an emerging technology platform delivering unique surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities across a broad range of market sectors (from law enforcement to media and entertainment). Due to the high power capacity of multi-rotor drones, existing lithium ion batteries only enable an operational flight endurance of 12-20 minutes, impacting on utility time, range and necessitating the use of multiple drone teams; thereby adding cost and restricting market application. The project will develop an innovate light weight solid state hydrogen power system achieving a specific energy density more than double that for Li-ion batteries. Combined with lift efficient drone design the project will achieve and demonstrate (flight testing) operational flight times in excess of 60 minutes; representing a >300% improvement compared to the state-of-art. Furthermore, the technology prototype will be redesigned for manufacture and certified for sale and use, thereby accelerating route to market. Extended endurance enables drone users to eliminate the need for multiple drone teams (>50% cost savings), increase payload capacity (drone capability) and/or achieve more during each flight. The technology demonstrates unique disruptive potential within the global market for small (<20kg) UAVs estimated to be worth >£1.73 billion by 2020 with a CAGR of 22.2%. Through clear differentiation, added value, patent protection and establishment of a global export infrastructure, the consortium target >£50 million new business growth within a 5 year period demonstrating a >50 fold ROI.


Lead researcher

Dr Stephen Prior CEng, MIMechE

Readership in Unmanned Air Vehicles

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

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