WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Despite advances drones today are still limited by their range, but new technologies like hydrogen fuel cells are helping overcome those limitations.
Although multi-copter drones are now being used to transport everything from blood supplies to donuts their short battery life limits their range, but this week, hot on the heels of hydrogen powered trucks and a hydrogen powered flying taxi with a record beating 400km range, a new hydrogen powered delivery drone achieved a new drone flight record and managed a staggering 1 hour, 43 minute ocean crossing between two Caribbean islands.
The test was the result of a collaboration between Texas based drone development company Guinn Partners, Georgia based Skyfire Consulting, the US Department of Health, and drone manufacturer Doosan who supplied the hydrogen fuel cell powered DS30 octocopter.
See it in action
Using its temperature controlled payload system the drone was used to transport live bacteria samples from a hospital on the Caribbean island of St. Croix to a testing facility on the neighbouring island of St. Thomas that involved crossing 43 miles (69 km) of open ocean, and when it successfully reached its destination the drone reportedly still had almost 30 minutes of flight time left on its fuel cell.
According to Guinn Partners it can ordinarily take up to a week before patients’ biological fluid samples are transported between the two islands by manned aircraft, and in the case of illnesses such as Dengue fever the infection can progress to dangerous levels within that amount of time, but because using a drone is much cheaper and simpler solution the new test means that the samples could be sent to St. Croix immediately for a much faster life saving turn around.
For the inaugural test flight a crew from Doosan followed the drone in a boat ready to take manual control if needed but next year, when the drone undergoes its first fully autonomous test flights, it will fly completely solo.
Source: Guinn Partners