Wingcopter, a German developer and operator of delivery drones, wants to give its purely electric Wingcopter 198 fleet the power of green hydrogen.
The company has announced a development partnership with Hamburg-based ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research, under which the duo is developing a sustainable, hydrogen-based propulsion system for Wingcopter delivery drones.
Wingcopter 198 is the world’s first drone that can deliver up to three packages at multiple locations during a single flight. The aircraft can carry a maximum of 6 kg on one battery charge of 75 km. And with a lesser payload weight (1 kg), it can travel up to 95 km – no matter the weather conditions.
The triple-drop delivery drone has already made headway to obtaining Type Certification with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US. While in Europe, a prominent user of the service is expected to be retail group REWE, which recently became a major shareholder in the company.
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By refitting the battery-powered Wingcopter 198 to run on hydrogen, the plan is for the drone to not only continue to fly emission-free in the future but also to become more powerful. Wingcopter says its delivery drone already achieves higher ranges and speeds than most models by competitors, but hydrogen propulsion could ensure even longer flight times for a variety of delivery applications.
Tom Plümmer, Wingcopter cofounder and CEO, explains:
We have always wanted the Wingcopter to be able to fly even further. However, we categorically ruled out the installation of a conventional combustion engine right from the start with a view to the environment and climate change. We are happy to now explore technical possibilities in the field of hydrogen propulsion together with the ZAL experts and then put the best concept into practice.
As part of the new partnership, a solution is now being developed at ZAL‘s Fuel Cell Lab in Hamburg, ensuring that it fits into the existing technology ecosystem of the Wingcopter delivery drone while preserving its characteristic flight capabilities.
It’s worth pointing out that in the past, ZAL engineers have been able to accomplish a flight duration of over two hours with the company’s own ZALbatros hydrogen drone. This was achieved using compressed gaseous hydrogen in combination with a fuel cell. A comparable technology will be used for Wingcopter. And later, the propulsion system will be produced by Wingcopter itself and installed in its delivery drones.
Roland Gerhards, CEO of ZAL GmbH, says, “Our mission is to bring hydrogen into the air and create innovative solutions for sustainable aviation. With our expertise, we want to convert the Wingcopter to hydrogen and thus strengthen the Hamburg UAM network Windrove with another flagship project.”
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