SoCalGas to deploy Doosan hydrogen drones in pipeline inspections

Doosan hydrogen drone

South Korea’s Doosan Mobility Innovation has struck a triangular partnership with utility Southern California Gas Co. and clean energy firm GTI to develop the use of hydrogen-powered drones for pipeline inspections and other long-flying business and public services.

The companies announced their accord during CES 2022 in Las Vegas, where Doosan Mobility Innovation (DMI) previously won several innovation awards for the hydrogen fuel technology in its drones. As one part of their joint work, Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) will deploy DMI DS30 UAVs for inspection of the pipelines that supply its 21.8 million consumers over 24,000 square miles of Central and Southern California. Adoption of the craft seeks to boost maximum flight capacity per mission, while relying on zero-emissions hydrogen cells in the utility’s drive to achieve zero-net carbon levels in its operations by 2045.

DMI DS30 drones are capable of 120 minutes of flight time with a maximum 11 lbs. payload, allowing them to inspect a full mile of pipeline per mission. DMI says its hydrogen cells have between four and five higher energy density than lithium-ion batteries, and a longer total life span – up to 1,000 hours – before they need recycling and replacement.

“This hydrogen-powered drone offers an opportunity to more efficiently monitor our pipelines in hard to access areas, allowing us to collect more data to quickly solve potential pipeline integrity issues,” said Neil Navin, vice president of clean energy innovations for SoCalGas said of the DMI tech. “This project is a great demonstration on the versatility of hydrogen and its broad range of applications as a clean fuel of the future.”

The other part of the trio’s link-up will feature GTI and SoCalGas working with businesses and government agencies to increase the development and use of clean hydrogen-powered applications. In doing so, the companies will broaden and extend their existing involvement with a US Department of Energy project, demonstrating renewable hydrogen tech as a cost-effective alternative to more polluting power tech like lithium-ion batteries – including within the rapidly rising use of drones in public and private enterprise activities.

“GTI is excited to partner with SoCalGas and DMI on this demonstration of hydrogen in the fast-growing application of drones,” said Ted Barnes, GTI’s director of research and development. “Our role is to support the integration of hydrogen into new technologies and this partnership allows us to utilize our capabilities while working with leaders in the field.” 

DMI officials say the tripartite arrangement allows each participant to advance their respective business objectives as they promote hydrogen power applications among companies and public organizations alike.

“Our partnership with SoCalGas and GTI means more than just a simple drone project,” said Doosoon Lee, CEO of DMI. “Our hydrogen-powered DS30 drone… serves as a perfect demonstration of how zero-emission drones can be used, especially in a long-distance application such as pipeline inspection.” 

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