Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Wingcopter’s delivery drones to get a hydrogen boost

Wingcopter, the German developer and operator of delivery drones, and Hamburg-based ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research GmbH have partnered to explore the potential of green hydrogen to power Wingcopter’s electric drones and develop a sustainable, hydrogen-based propulsion system.

The companies plan to refit the battery-powered Wingcopter 198 to run on hydrogen. This will enable the drone to not only continue to fly emission-free in the future but to become even more powerful.

Thanks to the added lift of its wings and its aerodynamic design, according to the company, the Wingcopter already achieves higher ranges and speeds than most competitors’ models. The hydrogen propulsion could ensure even longer flight times and thus enable correspondingly greater distances for different delivery applications.

Boasting a wingspan of 78 inches (about 200 cm), the W198 can fly at an altitude of 16,400 feet (5,000 meters), hitting up to 90 mph (144 km/h). It can cover approximately 46 miles (75 km) on a single charge, with a maximum payload of 5 kg. The range can be increased to 60 miles (95 km) by drastically reducing the payload to just 1 kg.

As part of the development partnership, a solution is being developed that will fit into the existing technology ecosystem of the Wingcopter delivery drone while preserving the characteristic flight capabilities of the Wingcopter. The project-related modification of the Wingcopter will take place at ZAL’s Fuel Cell Lab in Hamburg.

ZAL has already been able to achieve 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. Wingcopter plans to eventually start producing its own propulsion system and install it in its delivery drones. The two companies are currently testing the same formula for Wingcopter delivery drones.

“Our mission is to bring hydrogen into the air and create innovative solutions for sustainable aviation,” said Roland Gerhards, CEO of ZAL GmbH. “With Wingcopter as our partner, we’re not only impressed by their drones’ flight performance but also by their clear vision of how urban air mobility and especially drone delivery can help improve people’s lives. This aligns perfectly with ZAL’s values. With our expertise, we want to convert the Wingcopter to hydrogen and thus strengthen the Hamburg UAM network Windrove with another flagship project.”