The Staaker hydrogen drone doubles the endurance of standard drones without a negative impact on the environment. “Our zero-emission drone is performing amazingly well. The primary driver is to improve the endurance and range, but it also serves as a great demonstration of how eco-friendly technology can provide superior performance,” says Jørgen Apeland, R&D Engineer at Nordic Unmanned.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, are invaluable for performing tasks that would be too inefficient, dangerous or even impossible for humans to do alone. Used in a wide variety of industries, drones can do everything from 3D mapping of a disaster area to monitoring crop health in precision farming.
Despite their many benefits, a main limitation of battery-powered drones is their short endurance, which restricts their ability to carry out longer, more complex operations.
Nordic Unmanned intends to solve the problem of short endurance with its Staaker BG200 hydrogen-powered drone. The company is integrating a hydrogen fuel cell into its standard drone of the same name. By doubling the endurance, more data can be collected on a single mission. Longer endurance can also improve the drone’s range and operational efficiency.
“By using a hydrogen fuel cell for power, you enable operations that are not possible with a battery-powered drone, such as certain beyond visual-line of sight (BVLOS) operations for logistics, search and rescue, and inspections,” explains Apeland.
As one example, the hydrogen-powered drone can allow for more efficient inspection of power grid infrastructure, which consists of many kilometres of power lines. The drone will be able to cover a larger distance per flight, reducing the number of flights and take-off and landing locations needed to complete a mission.
“Our new drone can also help to coordinate search and rescue operations that normally span a large area. It can provide visual feeds with a thermal camera and provide better support to the operation. This will hopefully lead to a quick rescue of the lost person, who may be injured as well,” adds Apeland.
Moreover, the drone is flexible in terms of payload integration, meaning it can carry a variety of sensors and be easily customised according to the customer’s needs.
The hydrogen-powered drone vastly improves the efficiency of normal drone operations. “With standard drones you have to land them frequently and change or charge the batteries. The hydrogen-powered drone reduces the frequency of recharging or refuelling and gives you more airtime,” says Apeland.
As an important side benefit, the Staaker hydrogen drone is environmentally friendly. Hydrogen fuel cells emit no greenhouse gases, reducing the drones’ environmental footprint and helping companies that use them to reach their climate goals.
In addition, the drone is much quieter than other fuel-based high-endurance alternatives. As a result, humans and wildlife will be far less disturbed by a drone flying overhead in urban or rural areas.
Hydrogen has been gaining attention for its potential to contribute to a sustainable energy landscape. The EU, for example, has published an ambitious hydrogen strategy that supports clean hydrogen as an energy carrier. Emission free, hydrogen fuel cells will play an important role in the fight against climate change.
“By providing a hydrogen-powered option, we are promoting the adoption of this kind of technology. Companies will be drawn to the drone’s zero-emission profile, in addition to its extended endurance. We anticipate that hydrogen-powered drones will become more widely used and, in some cases, make battery-powered drones obsolete,” says Apeland.
Currently under development, the Staaker BG200 hydrogen drone is expected to be market ready in Q4 2022, and the company is now seeking customers who wish to participate in a pilot project.
Nordic Unmanned is a leading provider of UAS technology and services. The company carries out remote monitoring of vessel sulphur emissions, oil spill monitoring, and other types of monitoring and inspection as well. Nordic Unmanned has also developed an eco-friendly Railway Drone that performs unmanned rail maintenance and inspection.
7. Affordable and clean energy
The Staaker hydrogen-powered drone improves the energy efficiency of drone operations.
9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
The Staaker hydrogen-powered drone increases sustainability in industries that rely on drones.
11. Sustainable cities and communities
The Staaker hydrogen-powered drone limits noise pollution and eliminates emissions from drone operations.