The experimental drone managed to stay in the air for an impressive 3.5 hours thanks to a hydrogen fuel cell developed by a team at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The aircraft supports vertical takeoff and landing and uses a total of 12 engines.
The project is the result of a collaboration between the Delft University of Technology team, the Royal Netherlands Navy and the Netherlands Coast Guard. The drone weighs about 13 kg and has a wingspan of 3 meters, with six engines on each side of the fuselage. Due to the large number of engines, the device is extremely reliable: even if 7 engines fail, it will not fall and continue flying.
With an autonomy of 3.5 hours, the drone is ideal for providing support in reconnaissance and inspection missions, especially over the sea surface. Such a drone could be sent to a suspicious vessel and broadcast live to the main Coast Guard ship. This allows border guards to stay away from potential danger and better understand the situation.
Dean of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Delft University of Technology, Henri Werij, said: “One of the most important aspects of this research project is the hydrogen-fueled flight itself. Throughout the world, hydrogen is considered one of the most important contenders for the role of environmentally friendly aviation fuel “…
While on the ground, the drone is tilted slightly upward, which is more efficient for the engines that lift it. The drone carries fuel in a 6.8-liter carbon-composite hydrogen cylinder that can withstand a pressure of 300 bar, and is powered by an 800-watt fuel cell that converts hydrogen into electricity. As a result of the oxidation reaction with oxygen, the drone emits water, which makes it environmentally friendly.
Commander Pieter Blank added: “The current generation of young people is growing up learning and experimenting, and for us they are our cadre of the future. As an innovator of the Royal Netherlands Navy and the Netherlands Coast Guard, I am proud of this collaboration with the university. The creation of a marine unmanned aerial vehicle with a hydrogen engine is a real technical breakthrough with great potential in the future “…
Those interested can watch the above test flight video to find out more about the drone and the development team.
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