Together with the Hessian drone manufacturer Wingcopter, we successfully conducted the maiden flight of our jointly developed hydrogen-powered drone. What makes it special: the hydrogen-fueled prototype took off for the first time under real conditions from an airfield near Stade.
The successful field test marks a milestone for the drone manufacturer Wingcopter and our development team at ZAL GmbH (further information on the development partnership). Until now, the widely recognized delivery drone, the Wingcopter 198, has been exclusively powered by batteries. The technical conversion of its operation to hydrogen-powered fuel cells holds the promise of significantly expanding the drone’s capabilities with larger ranges in the future. Particularly for missions in remote areas or in offshore settings, the transition to hydrogen could potentially open new application fields or expand existing ones in the long term. For instance, in Africa, where Wingcopter transports medical supplies to hard-to-reach clinics and aims to establish entire delivery networks, longer flight times would contribute to better access to medical care for more population groups.
The technical conversion of the delivery drone was implemented in the Fuel Cell Lab of the ZAL TechCenter. Challenges in the technical work included designing and integrating a new technology into an existing overall system, as well as extensive ground testing for reliability analyses of the two integrated fuel cells. The flight test conducted under real conditions demonstrates two things: firstly, it proves that hydrogen technology in aviation is not just a vision for the future, but rather a technology that can be utilized today. Secondly, the successful transition to hydrogen propulsion showcases that this environmentally friendly and innovative technology can even be integrated into an already existing ecosystem. However, to transition from a mere prototype for testing the technology to a model usable in regular operations, further developmental steps and solutions are required, such as the integration of components into the body of the Wingcopter.
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