Electromobility is the trend. Cars, bicycles and electric scooters are already conquering the streets. The next step is to continue this movement in the field of aviation; thus enabling green flying. The ZAL GmbH Cabin& Systems team is focusing on the use of hydrogen, which is converted into electrical energy by means of fuel cells. Our team of experts successfully reached two milestones this summer. For the ZALbatros, the Fuel Cell drone and BILBO, the test stand for fuel cells, this means: “Power On!” Both projects were developed in-house at ZAL GmbH by R&T engineers who brought them to fruition from initial concept to the end product.
ZALbatros – The hydrogen-powered drone
The ZALbatros can carry payloads, such as cameras or sensors, of up to 2 kg. It can stay in the air for around 90 minutes. These are characteristics that far surpass battery-powered drones of the same size and drive power. The flexible design also makes it possible to collect data on the entire motor system. The ZALbatros has 6 rotors powered by two fuel cell systems with 800 watts of continuous power (1200 W peak). The energy needed for an approximately 90-minute flight is held in a 300-bar hydrogen pressure storage unit. It’s operation is supported by two small battery packs, which act as a backup.
BILBO – a test stand, is no Baggins
Although it may sound like Lord of the Rings, this has little to do with fantasy. Instead of magic, electrical and thermal energy is generated with the help of hydrogen. BILBO is a modular test stand for characterizing the components of fuel cell systems in a system network. This takes place in a setting in which the interconnection of individual optimized components does not necessarily ensure an optimal overall solution. Due to a modular approach, the system test rig allows individual modules to be replaced and characterized by new products or prototypes with little effort. This means that the system design is adapted to the application. Since all other components remain the same, the changes in operating performance can be attributed to the new components. This provides our fuel cell system developers with a detailed analysis and thus optimizes their work.
Even though we are working with fuel cells and not magic, the results speak for themselves. Green hydrogen as a source of energy is regenerative and emission-free. In addition, it is characterized by a high energy density compared to batteries; it’s only waste product is water vapor. The principle has been recognized since 1839, but for many it is still a bit like magic.
Flying laboratories – what does the future hold?
Both Fuel Cell projects are available to interested customers on request. Looking to the future, ZALbatros will be further developed for long-term use. They can then be used as flying laboratories for the research and development of new technologies in the area of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). In areas such as infrastructure maintenance and repair, UAVs will optimize processes. In order to meet the highest industrial standards and requirements, robust and reliable UAV systems must be developed to handle any eventuality.
The BILBO test stand can also be used for investigations of fuel cell systems in the power class 1 kW to 20 kW, enabling the verification and validation of components, system architectures and operating strategies. These test facilities are being developed and expanded continuously in order to meet the needs of research and development. The ZAL R&T team are making their contribution to a future in which green flying is possible.
Further information on Fuel Cell & Electrical Power Systems developed by the ZAL Cabin & Systems Team can be found here [download id=”2103″]