Event 38 Unmanned Systems, a leading manufacturer of mapping drones made in the United States, announced on Monday, June 13th, that the demonstration flight of the E450, a drone equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell, was successfully completed at Kent State University Airport.
The demonstration flight was the culmination of a multi-year project that began in 2020 and was sponsored by the Ohio Federal Research Network (OFRN), a program managed by Parallax Advanced Research. Event 38 explored the possibility of fuel cell powering drones in collaboration with other experts at Kent State University, Case Western Reserve University, University of Dayton, and Wright State University. The fuel cells used in the project were purchased from Ballard Unmanned Systems, which was acquired by Honeywell in October 2020.
Fuel cells are a promising power source for drones. Fuel cells can significantly extend the flight time of your drone. This is a big advantage. In addition, fuel cell power has fewer moving parts, so fuel cell-powered drones require much less maintenance and are much quieter than gas-powered drones.
Jeff Taylor, Founder and CEO of Event 38, said: We have played a very enthusiastic role in discovering how fuel cells can shape the future of unmanned flight technology. In addition, we recently completed another OFRN project to integrate the 3D printed antenna with the latest fixed-wing mapping drone, the E400, and were excited to be part of another OFRN project. “
To accommodate the considerable size of fuel cells, Taylor and the Event 38 team scaled up the design of the E400 to create the E450. They customized the carbon fiber structure of the E450 to fit the fuel cell and tank. They have also developed a custom thermal management setup to cool the fuel cell during flight. Designed and assembled entirely at Event 38’s headquarters in Richfield, Ohio, the company features robust composite prototyping and custom manufacturing capabilities.
Event 38 Principal Engineer Mathew Wright managed the integration of the fuel cell and power management system with the E450’s flight controller and ground control station.
“Autopilots and power systems need to be more tightly integrated into fuel cells compared to batteries and gasoline engines,” Wright said. “To optimize power consumption and expected changes in power bursts for climbing or landing under VTOL, power needs to be adjusted in real time.”
After several years of work, the entire team, along with OFRN representatives, gathered at Kent State University Airport on Monday, June 13, to demonstrate the completed drone.
The E450 flew normally for two hours and achieved Level 7 (“Demonstration of System Prototype in Relevant Environment”) on the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) scale. Based on energy usage analysis studies conducted after the demonstration, Taylor is confident that the drone can fly for up to 6 hours in a fully pressurized hydrogen tank.
The success of the project is a good sign for the future of fuel cells as a power source for drones.
“In the past, there were some drone applications that were considered impractical because of insufficient gas and battery power due to limited range, noise, or maintenance concerns,” Taylor said. rice field. “We are looking forward to revisiting which applications with fuel cell power as an option. For example, Event 38 does not focus on drone delivery, but industry colleagues say fuel cells. You may be approaching making your drone a reality with the power of.
In theory, if anyone wanted to start a drone delivery service with a fleet of event 38 drones, they could. “
Another exciting possibility is more effective aerial surveillance. Noisy gas-powered drones need to fly high to keep secret. The fuel cell uses an electric motor, so it is much quieter and stealth. Operators can fly the drone low under the clouds and use off-the-shelf sensors to capture high-resolution images and videos. In addition, the long output range of the fuel cell allows operators to monitor the site from a great distance.
“In terms of flight time, this drone is truly unmatched among competitors,” Taylor said. “We are proud to be involved in yet another project that sets new standards for drone performance.”
Companies interested in purchasing the E450 can choose from fuel cells, gas, and battery power based on their specific requirements. Event 38’s latest fixed-wing VTOL mapping drone, the E400, was launched earlier this year and is also available for short-range missions.
For more information on Event 38, please visit www.event38.com.
About Event 38 Unmanned System:
Event 38 designs and manufactures a fixed-wing VTOL drone in Richfield, Ohio. Since 2011, we have sold more than 600 drones to people and organizations around the world. Our drones capture geo-tagged data from a variety of industries and applications. The Event 38 drone can be customized for high resolution aerial photography surveys, thermal and multispectral images, LiDAR, and live video streaming.