Drone Makes First Flight Powered by Hydrogen Fuel Cell: Toyota Was Right

The automotive industry is still laughing at Toyota for making the hydrogen-powered Mirai. Some people say that hydrogen cannot be measured in gallons so it cannot be bought and sold. But the people making drones don't care about that. They just want more range than batteries and hydrogen is the best way to get it.
Raptor E1 6 photos
Photo: Cella
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A company called Cella has developed a drone. Technically, it's a UAV, but that term is out of fashion. The Raptor E1 doesn't have four propellers and can't deliver Amazon's packages. But it can fly while powered by hydrogen.

The problem with putting a fuel cell on an aircraft is that the tank used to store the hydrogen is heavy. But Cellla Energy's system is different because it uses a solid-state, lightweight hydrogen storage material. It only releases the fuel when heated, which is a little strange, but the capacity of the system is greater than a lithium-ion battery of the same weight. That's right, this is better than a battery!

Cella won't release too many details because it's a proprietary system. But we're told hydrogen is stored in small pallets that are kept in an unpressurized tank.

The work was funded by a grant from Innovate UK. The first flight using hydrogen was carried out on the afternoon of January 19 at Scotland's Oban Airport, by a team from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS).

The drone only flew for 10 minutes at an altitude of 80 meters. However, the cell reportedly had enough fuel for two entire hours.

“This flight used a small prototype system, and we were pleased with the initial flight with another flight scheduled to take place in the near future. The larger versions of this system that we are already designing will have three times the energy of a lithium-ion battery of the same weight,” said Stephen Bennington, Cella’s Managing Director.

“This is an exciting market for us,” explained Alex Sorokin, Cella’s CEO. “It is growing rapidly, and users are in desperate need of a power source that can outperform existing technologies in sectors ranging from emergency services to companies wanting to survey or map their infrastructure, be it a wind turbine or a gas pipeline.”

Unfortunately, video footage isn't available right now. But we can show you photos and the prototype UAV while it was undergoing flight tests in 2014.

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About the author: Mihnea Radu
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Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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