Most industrial and consumer drones are powered by electrical battery packs. There are some heavy-duty drones that utilize gasoline generators for propulsion. However, batteries can only sustain a drone for 35-45 minutes in the air. For industrial applications, this is a major drawback. Hydrogen has been long hailed as the future fuel. Korean drone manufacturer Doosan Mobility Innovation has utilized this clean source of energy to power their hydrogen drones.
Long Endurance Plus Clean Energy
Being the third most abundant element on Earth’s surface, hydrogen is a promising source of fuel. It’s high efficiency compared to gasoline paired with zero emissions makes it an ideal source of energy. Doosan has capitalized on this concept and developed an entire range of industrial drones that are powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
The DS30 strikes a balance between endurance and utility. With an onboard H2 tank of 10.8L, the DS30 can fly for a total of 120 minutes. This constitutes a range of 80km. The DS30 also won the Best Innovation Award at the CES 2020. The drone can carry a maximum payload of 5kg which makes it ideal for short-distance drone deliveries and inspection work. All Doosan drones can be equipped with any third-party camera payloads. Additionally, the DS30’s foldable design makes it easy to store and transport.
The DT30 is a lower-spec model. It is slightly more compact than the DS30 making it a more mobile choice. It has a maximum flight time of 110 minutes and a payload capacity of 3kg. The DT30 has special landing gears and arm support for safer landing and take-off. It can also incorporate a variety of payload options.
The DJ25 is a long endurance fixed-wing VTOL drone. Fixed-wing drones are known for their longer flight times. Adding a hydrogen fuel cell to that upgrades the drone’s performance by several times. The DJ25 has a maximum flight time of 303 minutes (4.5 hours) and a payload capacity of 2.5 kg. Additionally, the drone is remarkably quiet and vibration-free during flight. This helps in extending the service life of the drone.
The DZ15 is Doosan’s flagship industrial drone. The DZ15 is a helicopter-shaped heavy-duty industrial drone. It has an unparalleled flight time of 330 minutes and a 4.5kg payload capacity. The DZ15 has extreme wind resistance and therefore, is best suited for maritime operations. Despite putting out impressive numbers, the DZ15 is rather lightweight compared to other models. It weighs less than 20kg while the DT30 weighs 21kg. The compact factor of the drone makes it portable and aids in quick deployment.
The Hydrogen Dilemma
While hydrogen is several times more efficient than electric and gasoline-powered drones, it is not easily available. As of now, Doosan makes proprietary hydrogen tanks for its drones. This means that users cannot refill their hydrogen tanks or use third-party tanks. Instead, the company operates on a subscription-based model.
When a customer orders a new hydrogen tank from the company, the used tank is picked up and a fresh one delivered. However, this method of hydrogen refueling is only limited to the areas where Doosan operates. Therefore, the lack of accessibility of hydrogen is one of the primary reasons why hydrogen drones have not become mainstream. Hydrogen is quite difficult to extract and requires extremely low temperatures to store. However, in the near future as hydrogen availability progresses so will hydrogen-powered drones.