Skip to main content

This hydrogen-powered drone can theoretically fly for four hours straight

hycopter hydrogen powered drone 5
No matter how advanced or sophisticated they might be, practically all drones suffer from severely limited flight time. Batteries have come a long way in the past few years in terms of capacity, but even the best consumer UAVs can only stay aloft for about 15-20 minutes at most.

To remedy this problem, Horizon Unmanned Systems is taking a bold new approach — it’s doing away with batteries entirely. Instead of using the standard lithium-ion cells that most drones rely on for power, the Singapore-based company’s upcoming Hycopter drone uses hydrogen as its energy source.

In a clever design feature, the Hycopter stores 4.2 ounces of hydrogen gas at 5,076 psi inside the structural tubing of its hull – no separate gas canister is required. Horizon claims that with this lightweight design, the drone should be able to fly for about 2.5 hours while carrying a kilogram of cargo, or a whopping 4 hours while flying unloaded.

That might not sound like a particularly huge leap forward, but the difference between 20 minutes and four hours is pretty substantial. That much extra airtime would give drones the ability to fly drastically greater distances before needing to recharge, and would make drone-based delivery much more viable than it currently is.

But here’s the catch — Horizon hasn’t actually tested Hycopter yet. They’ve worked it all out on paper, and theoretically their system is capable of nonstop four-hour flight, but the company hasn’t actually built the first functional prototype yet. The UAV pictured above is, alas, merely a concept drone, and isn’t capable of flight. Horizon execs have said, though, that a working version is under development, and that Hycopter will undergo its first test flights later this year.

In the meantime, the company is currently taking pre-orders from interested parties to help raise money for further development.

Editors' Recommendations

Drew Prindle
Senior Editor, Features
Drew Prindle is an award-winning writer, editor, and storyteller who currently serves as Senior Features Editor for Digital…
Powered by a laser, this insect-sized RoboFly can take off and land wirelessly
robofly university of washington 0148

The first wireless flying robotic insect takes off

Researchers from the University of Washington have developed a fly-sized robot they think could be used to access places inaccessible to regular-sized drones. The RoboFly, which is only marginally heavier than a toothpick, can take off and land completely wirelessly. To do this, it uses tiny wings -- rather than the more common propellers -- to keep it airborne. While it can only launch itself off the ground a short distance at present, the team hopes to be able to improve the tiny robot’s aerial capabilities so that it can hover and fly about.

Read more
A defense company is building a drone that can fly continuously for one year
drone can fly for one full year rs77003 rs76869 mountains7

An average drone has a flight time of around 10 to 20 minutes. Record-breaking drones, meanwhile, can eke out anything from a few hours to, in the case of one diesel-powered drone, a few days. None of these can hope to hold a candle to a new solar electric unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) being developed by cutting-edge British companies, BAE Systems and Prismatic.

They are collaborating on the development of a new high-altitude, long-endurance drone called PHASA-35, which aims to achieve flight times of anywhere up to an astonishing 12 months. To do this, it will use a combination of long-life battery technology and ultra-lightweight solar cells that will allow it to power itself using the sun’s rays.

Read more
Drones are helping restore power to Puerto Rico
faa tests aerial drones for commerical use draganfly x4es drone 1

Drones have become relatively commonplace for both recreational and commercial use. But even the commercial flyers are mainly used for taking pictures or creating maps of areas. They don't do much in the area of heavy lifting, but that's changing in Puerto Rico. Wired reports that Duke Energy, which has volunteers working to restore power in Puerto Rico, is making use of five drones to handle dangerous tasks that are normally handled by humans, such as finding downed or submerged power lines, or stringing new lines over difficult terrain.

Prior to the introduction of these unmanned drones, Duke's workers would normally need to search for downed or submerged power lines in person. This could mean traversing through the island's tropical forests and across ravines and gorges. Once they've manged to locate the downed lines, the works would reattach them using a gun to string the 1,000-foot gaps in between the different power lines. Given that these workers are on 13-day shifts from dawn until dusk, this can be difficult and sometimes dangerous work, which is why the drones are so helpful.

Read more