Hydrogen fuel cells could keep drones flying for hours

British company teases next big upgrade for quadcopters

Drone with hydrogen fuel cell

Flying drones are improving all the time as they make their big mainstream splash, but one crucial part of the experience - flight time - hasn't seen the same kind of improvement. Thirty minutes of battery life is considered strong, but that's pretty limiting.

But there's hope on the horizon. British company Intelligent Energy revealed this week that it has designed a hydrogen fuel cell made specifically for drones - and it can last for potentially several hours, providing a means for extended flights. And recharging a fuel cell can take as little as two minutes when tapped out.

Intelligent Energy says the hydrogen fuel cell range extender is meant primarily for commercial purposes - like search and rescue, aerial photography, and package delivery means. That's probably due to cost as much as need. But hopefully the technology would become cheap and effective enough over time to reach consumers.

The company tested its fuel cells on various existing drone models over the past 14 months, with both a full hydrogen cell model and one with a hybrid hydrogen fuel cell. And now they're ready to showcase the latter technology, although the full-fledged hydrogen cell remains under wraps.

Intelligent Energy will spotlight the hybrid cell next month at CES 2016 in Las Vegas, amidst a larger demonstration of how fuel cells could ultimately power smartphones, tablets, and other consumer goods over time. Given the potentially huge value to the future of drone technology, that's one debut we'll be keeping a close eye on come January.

[Source: Intelligent Energy via The Verge]