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PHOTO CAPTION: Hydrogen-fueled Hycopter UAV 'drone'

Hycopter: World's First Hydrogen Fuel Cell Quadracopter

Forget bulky batteries. Hycopter uses its structure to store compressed hydrogen to power its fuel cell generator.

Published: 16-May-2015

How often have you heard this lament? "My cellphone battery is running down!"

Whether it's a dead cellphone or electric car in limp home mode, it's always the battery, it seems.

It's one thing have the battery drain in a phone or car. It's another in a flying machine. Run out of charge and down it comes; in the case of a mini-UAV, that happens around 15-20 minutes of flight time, even with the most advanced lithium batteries available on the consumer market.

What if you could increase flying time by a factor of ten? Instead of half-an-hour, you could keep the UAV flying for five hours, and then charge it in a couple minutes time? That's what Singapore-based Horizon Energy Systems is promising. They have developed micro fuel cells that can be fueled by three types of hydrogen storage systems from small compressed gas cylinders to 'on-demand' hydrogen generation chemical cartridges rated at 700Wh/kg, significantly higher than the best lithium batteries.

In the case of its new Hycopter micro UAV quadracopter, pictured above, it stores 120g (0.26 pounds) of hydrogen in its structure, which is the equivalent of 3kg (6.6 pounds) of lithium batteries. Since the Hycopter has less weight to lift, it can fly longer: the company claiming up to four hours of flight time.

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