Development of a hydrogen fuel cell powerd helicopter drone

Project title:
FlyHy - Hydrogen fuel cell powerd drone with interchangeable carrier for various measurement tasks

Hydrogen supply for drones using a hydrogen filling system based on reusable cartridges

Funding body:
Free State of Thuringia

Project duration:
06.09.2021 – 30.06.2023

Principal investigator of the project:
Prof. Dr. Mark Jentsch

Project partners:
edm aerotec GmbH, IMG Electronic & Power Systems GmbH, Schmuhl Faserverbundtechnik GmbH & Co. KG, HySON - Institut für Angewandte Wasserstoffforschung Sonneberg gGmbH, IVK Ingenieur- und Vermessungsbüro Kramer GmbH

Team members involved in the project:
M. Sc. Benjamin Breuer, Dipl. UWT Sebastian Büttner

Project outline

The joint project aimed to develop and test a helicopter drone powered by hydrogen fuel cells with an adapted hydrogen supply system. A DLR development for high-altitude flight tests served as the basis. The project investigated how a fuel cell can be combined with a traction accumulator to form a hybrid system in order to achieve flight time extensions compared to pure battery operation.  Since fuel cells require an adapted operating regime, programmable power electronics were developed to enable the interaction of fuel cell and high-performance accumulator. 

Fig. 1: Illustration of the modified helicopter drone

In addition to the actual drone, the development of the hydrogen supply in the form of adapted, replaceable type IV hydrogen cartridges and a mobile cartridge filling system were also the subject of the project. In order to make the drone universally usable outside of surveying areas, an interchangeable carrier system for tools was also designed and implemented. This allows the required tools to be mounted and exchanged quickly and without tools.

Performance tests have shown that the drone with hybrid drive can achieve a take-off mass of approx. 60 kg, with 10 kg being the payload.

Fig. 2: The drone "tethered" to the ground during performance tests of the fuel cell system and traction accumulator

Published Work

Breuer B, Jentsch MF (2022) Entwicklung einer mit Wasserstoff-Brennstoffzellen betriebenen Hubschrauber-Drohne29. REGWA Energiesymposium, Stralsund, 09-11 November 2022, 33-39. → view paper