Suitability Analysis of Implementing a Fuel Cell on a Multirotor Drone

Jørgen Apeland, Dimitrios Pavlou, Tor Hemmingsen


Increased flight time of multirotor drones is a key enabler for further adoption and industrial use of drones. A model for analyzing the performance of a fuel cell hybrid system for a multirotor drone is presented and applied for a case with an X8 multirotor drone with a maximum take-off mass of 25 kg. Endurance is the main performance parameter, and the model can be used to quantify the relative performance between different power sources. The model aims to determine if a specific hybrid fuel cell system is a viable option for a given multirotor drone and if it will provide better endurance than when powered by batteries. The model can also be used in system optimization and sensitivity analysis. In a case study, a fuel cell hybrid system with a 7.2 L cylinder with hydrogen at 300 bar is found to increase the flight time by 43 minutes (+76%) from the currently used LiPo-batteries. A plot identifies the energy system mass threshold for when the fuel cell hybrid system gives better endurance than batteries to be 7.3 kg. Based on current technology status, the cost of a fuel cell hybrid system is about 12 times that of LiPo-batteries.


PEM fuel cell; Hybrid system; Multirotor drone; Endurance model

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