Hydrogen VTOL drone reportedly sets endurance record in China

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A hydrogen-powered drone built in China has reportedly set the nation’s endurance record for UAV flight, with the fixed-wing craft doing so in vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) mode.

According to China Daily, the hydrogen-powered drone was developed in Chongqing, where it made its purported record-setting VTOL flight. Developed by the Hydrogen Power and Low-Carbon Energy Research Center, which is affiliated with the Chongqing Research Institute at the Harbin Institute of Technology, the Qing Ou 30 (“blue seagull 30″) UAV is said to fly a maximum of 800 km. at a top speed 90 km/h, carrying with a three kg. payload. 

Curiously, China Daily did not specify the distance of the reported record outing, but did stipulate its maiden flight was made with a maximum takeoff weight of 30 kgs. – meaning it must have been considerably shorter than 800 km.

Boasting a four-meter wingspan and impact-ventilated fuel cell power system said to enhance its flight efficiency, the hydrogen-powered drone was developed over the space of a year by a team of seven researchers. Technicians who worked on the project say its VTOL capabilities were of particular importance in enhancing its mission endurance.

“It is the fixed-wing, hydrogen powered VTOL drone with the best endurance in the country,” Qin Jiang, director of the center that built the UAV told China Daily. “Greater endurance has long been our goal in developing unmanned aerial vehicles. Additionally, the Qing Ou 30 comes with the option of cleaner energy.”

Expected to be ready for use by companies and public services within three years, the hydrogen-powered VTOL drone may prove a remarkable workhorse indeed.

Its developers say it will perform inspections of 10 km. of high-voltage power lines in about 10 minutes, vastly reducing the hours – even days – of manual methods. The craft is also being prepared for deployment in monitoring oil pipelines, conducting geological surveys, and performing logistics, transportation, and emergency rescue missions. 

The combination of hydrogen fuel and less taxing VTOL departure and arrival modes, researchers add, promise to make the drone a marathon aerial asset.

“The longer its battery lasts, the greater the value it achieves,” said Shen Tieling, a developer who noted its endurance will, inevitably, also make the Qing Ou 30 alluring to operators of military surveillance and reconnaissance missions. “It could serve as an eye in the sky for modern warfare and provide continuous monitoring.”

Photo: China Daily

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