HES Energy Systems raised a few eyebrows last May, when it announced development of a fuel cell-powered quadcopter that could potentially stay airborne for four hours at a time. While we’re still waiting to see how that one turns out, the company has in the meantime unveiled a new fixed-wing drone that’s impressive in its own right. It’s called Hywings, and it can reportedly fly for up to 10 hours without refuelling.
Hywings’ fuel cell is powered by either a hydrogen chemical cartridge or a cylinder of compressed hydrogen gas – the former offers the 10-hour flight endurance figure, while the latter is said to be good for six hours.
The carbon fiber-bodied drone weighs 7 kg (15 lb), and can be launched from the ground by hand. Once airborne it can maintain a cruising speed of 55 km/h (34 mph), allowing for a range of over 500 km (311 miles). It can also withstand winds of up to 30 km/h (19 mph), plus it can be remotely controlled via a telemetry system up to a distance of 180 miles (290 km).
HES has designed the aircraft to work with three sensor payloads. These include a 1080p/60fps Hitachi HD video camera, a FLIR thermal imaging camera, and a Micasense Sequoia multispectral camera for imaging agricultural fields.
Given that Hywings was created as a demonstrator, there’s currently no word word on when or if a production version may be available. For now, though, it can be seen in action below.