UAV manufacturer ISS Aerospace uses hydrogen fuel cells to extend flight time for specific customer missions

ISS Aerospace is using hydrogen fuel cells to extend the flight times of its bespoke UAVs designed to fly for specific customer missions.

The company produces drones with extended flight times which are already being used to extend flight times across areas with areas of inhospitable terrain, including flight times which allow UAVs to fly across entire rugged mountain ranges in Kurdistan.

Ryan Kempley, CEO and founder of the Newbury-based drone manufacturer, explained how the fuel source would lead to a stretching of industry standard flight times.

He said: “We are now using UAVs with hydrogen fuel cells. This is a step change in the autonomy of the platform. Typically at the moment we can only get half an hour of flight as an industry standard.”

Specific configurations can extend flight to two hours

“We may be only talking 25 minutes, 35 minutes of flight time. With a hydrogen fuel cell, weight for weight, compared to the batteries we would use on there, we are now seeing flight times of one to one and a half hours. With specific configurations, we can now go to maybe two hours of flight time.”

The company designs drones to match customer specific mission capabilities. Kempley said that hydrogen had the benefit of being safer and less volatile than lithium polymer batteries. “Lithium polymer batteries are typically very volatile, you can drop them or puncture them and they will combust, whereas the hydrogen in the tanks that we use is actually very safe,” he said.

“So hydrogen expels a mass of velocity. If its punctured it needs to be a concentration of 4 per cent in quite a tight space to actually combust, so the actual chances of a tank under a catastrophic failure combusting is very thin, in fact these tanks have been tested with AK47 fire, they’ve been tested from 100 metre drops and none have them have had any combustion.”

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