The South Korean Jeju Island provincial government has completed test flights with a hydrogen fuel cell powered drone.
The flight undertook monitoring of a section of a natural gas pipeline and of landfills and also delivered emergency supplies to Mount Halla, South Korea’s tallest mountain where climbers frequently require emergency support.
The flight follows an earlier demonstration of a solar powered drone on a coastline flight.
“We are demonstrating the technology not only to improve drone regulations for aspects such as night-time and high altitude flights and to improve the craft’s performance but also to reflect the requirements of institutions with demanding needs,” says Hyung-Seok Yoon, director of Future Strategy.
“I am working hard to prepare a service model for the commercialisation of hydrogen drones.”
The Jeju government is working with the South Korean multinational Doosan to overcome the limitations of battery powered drones, notably the limited flight times.
The pipeline monitoring was conducted over a distance of about 40km during a 90 minute flight. Hydrogen powered drones are capable of more than two hour flight times.
The initiative, part of a city development project, is focussed on safety and administrative applications, such as infrastructure monitoring. The aim is to develop a business model for drone use by local governments and to provide financial and other support for drone manufacturers to commercialise innovative technologies and services.
Doosan is a pioneer in the development of hydrogen fuel cell powered drones. The company claims its hydrogen technology offers a high degree of reliability and safer and more eco-friendly drone use than the traditional battery powered drones.
Other features include durability, with an over 1,000 hour fuel cell lifetime, and convenience, with a 10-minute hydrogen tank replacement time. Payloads of up to 5kg can be carried.
The company also is developing a platform to support beyond line of sight drone flights – a major limitation in some jurisdictions for remote monitoring of powerlines, for example.