hydrogen fuel cell Doosan drone

Hydrogen fuel cell drone tech: behind Doosan, the company making it happen

If the name Doosan sounds familiar, that’s because the company popped up on Drone Girl’s radar after being named one of the honorees of the CES 2022 Innovation Awards. And it turns out, the company building hydrogen fuel cell drone tech has a lot up its sleeve beyond a fancy title from the Consumer Electronics Show.

The company is developing safe use of hydrogen fuel cell technology for drones. And that’s crucial for a few reasons, including:

  • It expands the number of drones with zero carbon emissions, which is good from an environmental standpoint.
  • Hydrogen fuel cells could be particularly relevant in expanding beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations.
  • Hydrogen-power means drones typically have lower noise, as well as no vibration during power generation.

And with that, here’s what you need to know about Doosan, the company building hydrogen fuel tech for drones, and why its tech is so important:

Doosan hydrogen fuel cell drone UAV

The power of hydrogen fuel cell drone tech

Hydrogen fuel cell drone tech provides a higher energy density over traditional lithium batteries, which is most commonly what you’ll find in drones including DJI’s drones (as well as other tech products like your iPhone). While battery-powered systems don’t produce carbon emissions either, they’re limited in range and capacity.

Other drone companies use fossil fuel propulsion systems, but those entail carbon emissions and high environmental noise. In contrast, hydrogen can be produced using 100% renewable energy. And, when the fuel cell generates electricity, it emits only water vapor.

And here’s even another benefit: it takes roughly 10 minutes or less to charge a fuel cell, while it takes more than 60 to 90 minutes to fully charge a battery. 

Thanks to the combination of more power and its zero-emissions profile, many experts believe that fuel cell technology could sustainably expand BVLOS drone operations for both commercial and public flight operations.

In one study (full transparency, it was done by Doosan itself), hydrogen fuel cells on drones were found to utperform traditional batteries with an energy density up to four times the current standard.

A history of Doosan

Doosan Mobility Innovation (DMI) is a 100% invested company by Doosan Corporation, which is a massive, global company with $18.5 billion in revenue.

DMI has been manufacturing fuel cell technology since 2014, but didn’t initially start with drones, only recently designing miniaturized fuel cell-powered systems specifically for safe use in drones.

In 2019, Doosan launched drone products in the U.S., China and Korea. Since then, it’s collected hours of flight time across hydrogen drones used in various industrial fields including utility inspection, delivery, emergency monitoring, and public safety.

Despite being a relative newcomer to drones, Doosan Mobility Innovation can — and always will — hold the title of world’s first commercialized hydrogen fuel cell system for drones. Its drone tech offers up to four times longer flight time than standard battery operated drones.

Doosan this year got recognized in a more formal sense as a CES 2022 Innovation Awards recipient. The CES 2022 Innovation Awards recognize products that entered the market for the first time after April 1, 2021. And in fact, Doosan was recognized twice in the CES 2022 Innovation Awards.

Among Doosan’s lineup featuring hydrogen fuel cell drone tech

DJ25: A fuel cell-powered VTOL drone by Doosan Mobility Innovation and JOUAV

The company first got its CES recognition for its DJ25 hydrogen fuel cell VTOL(Vertical Take Off and Landing) commercial drone solution, designed by Doosan in partnership with JOUAV. That drone contains advanced PEMFC(Proton-Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell) technology and a VTOL air frame.

The drone purports to have flight time of up to 5 and half hours, and it can cover up to 500km in a single flight, making it well-suited for long-distance inspections, large-scale site surveying and mapping.

Doosan Mobility Innovation’s second award came via its solar inspection solution created for hydrogen fuel cell drones. That all-in-one solution for renewable energy infrastructure inspections involves hydrogen PEMFC(Proton-exchange Membrane Fuel Cells) technology.

With this more eco-friendly product, a hydrogen fuel cell drone can fly for more than two hours with an automatic mission flight while taking detailed images of hundreds of thousands of solar panels (that’s a 2MW solar farm). From there, data is collected and sent to an AI-based SW through Doosan’s LTE cloud server, enabling defects to be automatically detected through machine learning, made into reports and sent to customers.

Partnerships with Iris Automation and Drone America

Some of the biggest American drone companies are turning to Doosan for itshydrogen fuel cell technology. As part of the 2022 CES conference,Iris Automation and Drone America signed agreements to pursue Doosan’s hydrogen fuel cell technology for scaling its long range, autonomous beyond line of sight drone operations.

The three companies will pair their combined flight experience, technologies and expertise in an effort to shape the future of BVLOS commercial operations.

“Getting to higher density, zero-emissions fuel is an important breakthrough for long-range drone operation,” said Lori DeMatteis, vice president of sales and marketing at Iris Automation. The company is building a collision avoidance software called Casia, which allows drones to see and react to the aviation environment around the aircraft. That enables real time airspace awareness onboard the drone, even if it’s flying beyond the operator’s line of sight.

Meanwhile, Drone America is a company that designs and manufactures drones, while also providing commercial flight services to first responders, critical delivery, and infrastructure surveying and inspections. The company is currently building a fleet of certified above 55lb. aircraft. That fleet will use Iris’s Casia for real-time airspace awareness and yes, Doosan’s fuel cell systems.

“Shaping the future of commercial BVLOS is not always about one person, but about the team that makes everything happen,” Mike Richards, Drone America President and CEO. “From design, engineering, and production to flight services, certification and training, everyone here represents the very best at what they do.”

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