Are hydrogen-powered delivery drones on the horizon?

Jon Lawson
DMI's drone at the CES

Doosan Mobility Innovation (DMI) and 42air have signed a memorandum of understanding to create a partnership to develop delivery services using hydrogen fuel cell unmanned aerial vehicles.

The plan is to work on developing a service model including specifying and integrating fuel cell power systems, automation software, logistics software, cargo handling systems, and other technologies and processes to enable a new aerial delivery ecosystem. DMI reckon the advantage of fuel cells is that they have 4-5 times higher energy density than lithium-ion batteries, making the drones Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) capable and therefore ideal for delivery purposes. Doosoon Lee, CEO of DMI noted, “Hydrogen fuel cell technology has shown its strength in endurance by making our drone fly for two hours. By working with 42air, we will now show that this technology is happening now, not for the future, and that it is a very promising technology for drone delivery.”

The initial focus of the technology looks likely to be maritime work. 42air already has had some success with  delivery to ships in the Mississippi River, although this has been under the visual flight rules. A winch system is used so the drones don’t actually land onboard to drop off or collect cargo. Future trial delivery operations are planned to ships anchored around the Port of Los Angeles, as well as to oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

• Read more about drones working at sea here.