LONDON – H3 Dynamics and Australian UAV manufacturer Carbonix are collaborating to develop and manufacture Australia’s first hydrogen-electric VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS).
Carbonix is Australia’s leading UAV manufacturer with unique expertise in advanced composite manufacturing, aeronautical structural design and advanced control systems for vertical take-off and landing.
H3 Dynamics has been working on the cutting edge of hydrogen UAV technology for over 15 years and just recently unveiled its breakthrough hydrogen electric nacelle technology.
Suitability for Australian conditions
Hydrogen-electric systems can increase flight times by several orders of magnitude compared to batteries, making the Australian continent’s size, low population density, and beyond-line-of-sight (BVLOS) commercial drone operations unique worldwide.
Hydrogen’s extended range will support Carbonix’s existing long-range linear inspection applications that have long relied on expensive helicopters and light aircraft, such as power lines, pipelines, mining mapping, and surveying large tracts of land.
This newly announced partnership is also in line with Australia’s overall hydrogen and decarbonization plans.
Carbonix ‘s primary end-user markets, mining and logistics, already using passenger planes and helicopters, as well as battery and combustion-powered drones, can now switch to using domestically produced hydrogen.
H3 Dynamics will immediately integrate its off-the-shelf hydrogen system into Carbonix’s existing fleet of small unmanned VTOL systems, provide training and accelerate field experience.
Carbonix CEO Philip Van der Burg said: “For us, it is important to develop intelligent long-range flight systems to access critical data in remote locations in a reliable and effective way while also being environmentally friendly.”
“We want to complete the hydrogen value chain for several of the growing UAV segments and get it done faster here in Australia.”
Carbonix’s next-generation H2 VTOL UAV will leverage H3 Dynamics’ revolutionary hydrogen-electric nacelle technology.
Remote area operation
The results of the first flight using this technology were announced a few days ago. H3 Dynamics’ patented distributed hydrogen-electric propulsion technology frees up fuselage space so it can carry larger sensors, carry more cargo, fly long distances and deliver autonomously.
This specialized nacelle system allows aircraft volume to be reserved for air transport and paves the way for medical supplies to remote communities in Australia.
Taras Wankewicz, CEO of H3 Dynamics said: “Australia will likely be the first country to use commercial electric powered drones that use hydrogen instead of batteries to fly longer distances at a time to reach remote areas or survey larger areas. will make use of it.”
The increased range also means that beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight is possible, a fringe area of regulation for the commercial UAS sector worldwide.
Australia’s vast land area and low population density would make it an ideal global testing base for beyond-line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations.
In September, H3 Dynamics announced plans for BVLOS in Australia, along with Australia’s Lipper Group, which operates Carbonix drones.
First, it will deploy fully autonomous drone stations capable of BVLOS operations at multiple locations for applications ranging from mining and solar farm surveys to wildlife and marine protection and lifesaving.
Deployments of BVLOS drone stations have already begun, including one being undertaken by Carbonix to facilitate regulatory approval of higher performance hydrogen BVLOS drones.
CEO Taras Wankewicz added: “We believe that unmanned systems will be the starting point for the evolution of larger hydrogen-powered flight platforms, but the weight of the aircraft presents different testing, certification and regulatory approval challenges.”
“The plan is to grow the fleet of hydrogen aircraft each year until it can fly an airliner-sized aircraft, and the first significant step towards that ultimate vision is to mature airborne hydrogen technology in the current unmanned aerial vehicle market.”
The complete solution will be manufactured in Australia in close cooperation with ASX listed QuickStep. The company is Australia’s largest independent aerospace composites company and the manufacturer of Carbonix’ VTOL UAV airframes.
QuickStep has a program to develop intelligent composite hydrogen storage solutions that may soon be applied to H3 Dynamics hydrogen fuel cell nacelles for hydrogen flight.