Joint development begins on hydrogen powered drones

17 March 2023
Wingcopter and Zal will develop hydrogen-based engine for the Wingcopter 198 drone that is currently being used in delivery logistics. Source: Wingcopter

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) developer Wingcopter and Germany research house Zal Center of Applied Aeronautical Research GmbH are partnering to explore the potential of using hydrogen power for Wingcopter’s drones.

These drones are already electric and if a hydrogen-based propulsion system is introduced it could lead to sustainable propulsion for the next generation of deliveries, research, surveying, agriculture and more.

The companies are working to refit the battery-powered Wingcopter 198 drone to run on hydrogen. This could also lead to longer ranges and faster speeds for drones, which is one of the barriers for the transportation method currently.

The modification

The modification of the engine will be done at Zal’s fuel cell lab in Hamburg, Germany. The hydrogen solution being developed will fit into the existing ecosystem of the Wingcopter’s delivery drone while preserving the flight capabilities of the UAS.

Previously, Zal was able to achieve a flight duration of more than two hours with the Zalbatros hydrogen drone. This was using a compressed gaseous hydrogen in combination with a fuel cell.

“Our mission is to bring hydrogen into the air and create innovative solutions for sustainable aviation,” said Roland Gerhards, CEO of Zal. “With Wingcopter as our partner, we're not only impressed by their drones' flight performance, but also by their clear vision of how urban air mobility and especially drone delivery can help improve people's lives. This aligns perfectly with ZAL's values. With our expertise, we want to convert the Wingcopter to hydrogen and thus strengthen the Hamburg UAM network Windrove with another flagship project.”

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