Wingcopter to build hydrogen-powered drone with ZAL
The partners will retrofit one of Wingcopter’s battery-powered 198 drones to be powered by a hydrogen propulsion system
Drone developer Wingcopter will explore the possibility of hydrogen-based propulsion for its delivery drones as an alternative to battery power, in partnership with the ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research.
The two organizations plan to retrofit a Wingcopter 198 drone with a new hydrogen-based power supply at ZAL’s Fuel Cell Lab, incorporating the aircraft’s existing technical systems and preserving its standard flight characteristics.
The collaboration builds on ZAL’s previous success in achieving flight times of over two hours using the company’s own ZALbatros hydrogen-powered drone – which employed compressed, gaseous hydrogen in combination with a fuel cell.
If the project is successful, Wingcopter will produce the propulsion system and incorporate it into future drones.
In addition to offering a potentially eco-friendly alternative to battery power, a hydrogen-propelled drone would offer longer flight times than a conventional 198 drone – enabling deliveries to be made over a much wider range.
“We are very excited about the collaboration and are confident that together we can develop an even more efficient propulsion solution that benefits nature at the same time,” said Wingcopter co-founder and CEO Tom Plümmer. “We have always wanted the Wingcopter to be able to fly even further. However, we categorically ruled out the installation of a conventional combustion engine right from the start with a view to the environment and climate change. We are happy to now explore technical possibilities in the field of hydrogen propulsion together with the ZAL experts and then put the best concept into practice.”
Long-range delivery drones are becoming an increasingly important tool in delivering medical support to people in remote areas. Wingcopter itself has been working to develop medical drone delivery networks in the Andes, sub-Saharan Africa, and the rural US.