Print

Long-Endurance Multirotors And Hydrogen Fuel

Increasing the flight endurance of small multirotor unmanned aircraft systems is a big deal. Our story click history offers great proof.
By Luke Geiver | July 23, 2015

Increasing the flight endurance of small multirotor unmanned aircraft systems is a big deal. Our story click history offers great proof. Last week, we posted a small piece on a hydrogen fuel cell developer that has used its technology to record 3-plus hour flight on a small UAV. The story’s clicks were off the charts. My guess is that when we post our story on Cella Energy, a U.K.-based company that recently opened offices at a NASA Florida facility, it will record a high number of story clicks.

After spinning out of a research lab in 2011, the company has developed a pelletized version of hydrogen fuel (picture small Styrofoam pellets, literally). The pellets are made with a polymer that includes a highly-concentrated material containing hydrogen. When the material is heated over 100 degrees Celsius, it releases gas and is then used in a fuel cell. The complete system, including teh fuel cell, is a third of the weight of an equivalent battery system. It is much safer to fly with and transport or store.

Cella Energy is now working with one of the largest UAV OEM’s in the world with Israel Aerospace Industries. Through the rest of the year, the duo will work to perfect a fuel cell powered UAV fueled with Cella’s hydrogen pellets. Who knows what will come of the work, but the partnership could be coming at a perfect time for both.

According to the Cella team, it has always been focused on the UAS industry. It has always recognized the need for lighter, longer-endurance UAVs from manufacturers and operators. And, after talking with several UAV manufacturers, Cella learned that most have already looked into hydrogen fuel cell technology in the past but the logistical challenge of hauling and storing compressed hydrogen gas is too difficult. This appears to be a cool story that could get even better.