Doosan Mobil­i­ty Inno­va­tion (DMI) has signed agree­ments with Iris Automa­tion and Drone Amer­i­ca to pur­sue Doosan’s hydro­gen fuel cell tech­nol­o­gy, which will help to enhance scal­able sys­tems for long range, autonomous beyond line-of-sight (BVLOS) UAS oper­a­tions.

The com­pa­nies will work togeth­er to inte­grate tech­nolo­gies and share oper­a­tional resources to test and eval­u­ate air­craft plat­forms and infra­struc­ture to sup­port com­mer­cial BVLOS oper­a­tions.

Soon­suk (Fran) Roh, man­ag­er of Amer­i­c­as and Ocea­nia busi­ness devel­op­ment at Doosan Mobil­i­ty Inno­va­tion, said: “The poten­tial of hydro­gen fuel cell drone tech­nol­o­gy that deliv­ers the endurance and per­for­mance nec­es­sary to enable autonomous UAV flight, with­out car­bon emis­sions, is huge.

“This part­ner­ship is an excel­lent way to jump­start the progress we can make by col­lab­o­rat­ing with two pio­neers at the fore­front of real-world UAV inno­va­tion to actu­al­ly start BVLOS ser­vices.”

Doosan has been man­u­fac­tur­ing fuel cell tech­nol­o­gy since 2014, and now pro­vides safe, minia­turised fuel cell-pow­ered sys­tems for use in drones.

Due to its high­er ener­gy den­si­ty over tra­di­tion­al lithi­um bat­ter­ies, and zero-emis­sions pro­file, Doosan’s Hydro­gen fuel cell tech­nol­o­gy has the poten­tial to sus­tain­ably expand BVLOS drone oper­a­tions for both com­mer­cial and pub­lic flight oper­a­tions.

Tra­di­tion­al lithi­um bat­ter­ies and fos­sil fuel-pow­ered propul­sion sys­tems are pre­dom­i­nant­ly used in small UAS air­craft today. Bat­tery-pow­ered sys­tems, such as those cur­rent­ly in use, do not pro­duce car­bon emis­sions but are lim­it­ed in range and capac­i­ty. Fos­sil fuel propul­sion sys­tems have longer range, but at the expense of car­bon emis­sions and high envi­ron­men­tal noise.

Accord­ing to DMI’s research and test­ing, its UAS hydro­gen fuel cells can out­per­form tra­di­tion­al bat­ter­ies with an ener­gy den­si­ty up to four times the cur­rent stan­dard. Hydro­gen can be pro­duced using 100 per cent renew­able ener­gy and when the fuel cell gen­er­ates elec­tric­i­ty it emits only water vapour. 

Doosan Mobil­i­ty Inno­va­tion, Iris Automa­tion, and Drone Amer­i­ca are look­ing for­ward to demon­strat­ing how their com­bined flight expe­ri­ence, tech­nolo­gies and exper­tise can help shape the future of BVLOS com­mer­cial oper­a­tions.

Iris Automation’s Casia allows an uncrewed aer­i­al vehi­cle (UAV) to see and react to the avi­a­tion envi­ron­ment around the air­craft, enabling real time air­space aware­ness onboard the BVLOS UAV’s dur­ing flight oper­a­tions.

Lori DeMat­teis, vice pres­i­dent of sales and mar­ket­ing at Iris Automa­tion, said: “Get­ting to high­er den­si­ty, zero-emis­sions fuel is an impor­tant break­through for long-range drone oper­a­tions. As part of the over­all dri­ve to scale, it makes com­mer­cial oper­a­tions increas­ing­ly viable and cost-effec­tive. Giv­en Doosan and Drone America’s lead­er­ship in this space and very prac­ti­cal roles in enabling drone oper­a­tions, we’re excit­ed to col­lab­o­rate.”

Drone Amer­i­ca spe­cialis­es in design­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing uncrewed air­craft sys­tems while pro­vid­ing com­mer­cial flight ser­vices to first respon­ders, crit­i­cal deliv­ery, and infra­struc­ture sur­vey­ing and inspec­tions. Drone Amer­i­ca is in the process of devel­op­ing a fleet of cer­ti­fied above 55lb. air­craft that takes full advan­tage of Doosan’s fuel cell sys­tems and incor­po­rate Iris’s Casia for real-time air­space aware­ness.

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