Could the answer to all of our drone problems be hydrogen fuel cells? That’s what Intelligent Energy is claiming, a British company specialized in hydrogen power. And they might not actually be biased toward this tech.
Consumer drones have exploded recently. And with their rise in popularity has come lots of rapid improvements with functions and features. Aircraft have gotten steadily cheaper, more powerful and easier to use. Cameras have improved, while getting smaller. And navigation has come a long way. But one thing that has not evolved much, if at all? Battery life.
The typical flight time for a consumer drone is around 20 minutes. Double that time, and you have the time it takes to fully recharge the battery.
That’s not a big deal for a hobbyist, but if we’re going to take the whole using drones for commercial purposes thing seriously, we’ll need drones that can make it farther than just a few blocks.
That’s where hydrogen fuel cells come into play.
Intelligent Energy has been experimenting with drones using fuel cell and battery hybrid systems. By adding a hydrogen fuel cell onto a typical battery, the company says it can extend flight times from around 20 minutes to over two hours. Oh, the places you’ll go! And because the unit can be recharged with compressed hydrogen, refueling a cell can be done in a few minutes.
This same tech has also been proved to power a smartphone for a week. (When can we get these things installed in iPhones?)
It would be nice to have drones that flew for hours and smartphones that held charges for days, but hydrogen fuel cells don’t grow on trees.
Perhaps the better solution to all of our drone problems? Money.
Before we get too excited about anything, let’s wait to see the prototype at CES. My guess is the company will decline to comment on pricing.