H3 Dynamics and Carbonix are partnering to begin production the first Aussie hydrogen-electric VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) uncrewed aircraft system (UAS). Carbonix is Australia’s leading UAV manufacturer with expertise in advanced composite manufacturing, aerostructure design and sophisticated control systems for vertical and landing capabilities.
H3 Dynamics has been working on cutting edge hydrogen UAV tech for over 15 years, and has just released a ground-breaking hydrogen-electric nacelle tech. Compared to batteries, hydrogen electric systems will increase flight durations by several orders of magnitude, matching the scale of the Australian continent, its low population density, and its globally unique experience in “beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) commercial drone operations.
What does this mean for the industry?
Hydrogen-enabled range elongation will support Carbonix’ long distance linear inspection applications like grid lines and pipelines, mining industry mapping and surveying across large expanses of land – which continue to rely on the use of expensive helicopters or light aircraft.
This Australia’s broader hydrogen and decarbonization plans, in Carbonix key end-user markets like mining and logistics, where passenger aircraft and helicopters, and battery or combustion engine drones are already being used – and could now be converted to using locally-produced hydrogen, fueling the success of major Australian companies like Fortescue.
“Creating intelligent long range aerial systems enabling reliable and effective access to critical remote data while respecting the environment is key to us. We will work with H3 Dynamics to complete the hydrogen value chain for several rapidly growing UAV segments, and to do it much more quickly – right here in Australia.” said Philip Van der Burg, Carbonix CEO.
In addition, H3 Dynamics’ patented distributed hydrogen-electric propulsion technology liberates the main fuselage, making room for bigger sensors or more cargo for autonomous delivery covering long distances. The special nacelle system liberates fuselage volume for aerial deliveries, opening up medical deliveries to remote communities in Australia.
Range elongation also means flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), the regulatory edge of the global commercial UAS sector. With its massive land mass and low population density, Australia is indeed an ideal global experiment base Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations.
What does this mean for H3 Dynamics and Carbonix?
“Australia will likely be the first to use commercial electric-powered drones that use hydrogen instead of batteries, in order to fly for many hours at a time and reach those remote locations, or survey much larger areas of land,” said Taras Wankewycz, CEO H3 Dynamics.
“We are convinced unmanned systems are the evolutionary starting point to increasingly large hydrogen powered flight platforms, where testing, certification and regulatory approval challenges vary based on aircraft weight.” says Taras Wankewycz further commented.
“H3 Dynamics’ plan is to increase the size of hydrogen air frames every year until we are able to fly passenger-scale aircraft. We want to mature airborne hydrogen technology in today’s existing uncrewed aviation markets as a first essential step towards that ultimate vision.”
Carbonix’ next gen H2-VTOL UAV will make use of H3 Dynamics’ revolutionary hydrogen-electric nacelle technology, with a first-in-flight milestone announced several days ago.
In September, H3 Dynamics announced its BVLOS plans with Ripper Group in Australia, a Carbonix drone operator, starting with the deployment of fully autonomous drone stations capable of BVLOS operations across multiple sites, in applications ranging from mining to swimmer and surfer protection. This first critical step was initiated earlier, to help ease the market entry of more capable hydrogen VTOL drones, like the ones Carbonix are working on.
The full solution will be made in Australia in partnership with ASX-listed Quickstep – Australia’s independent aerospace composite firm, which is also the manufacturer of Carbonix UAV frames. Quickstep has an ongoing development program for intelligent composite hydrogen storage solutions, which could soon be applied in H3 Dynamics’ hydrogen fuel cell nacelles.