Will the Russian Army buy hydrogen fuel cell drones?
A drone is only as useful as its power supply. Internal combustion engines are powerful but loud. Batteries can only sustain short flights, and are drained even faster if the drone has to carry any additional payload. On May 6, 2019, a Russian firm announced it was bringing a Gjis UAV, a drone powered by hydrogen fuel cells, to the massive Army-2019 exposition in June. Though not without risk, if the fuel cell drone works at promise it could pack a surprising amount of capability into its small frame.
Made by International Aero Navigation Systems Concern, the Gjis drone boasts an altitude ceiling of at least 9,800 feet, a 3 mile operational radius, and a cruising speed of over 35 mph.
“The advantage in using hydrogen-powered UAV is that it can operate without additional logistics or fuel infrastructure -- the users simply pour water into fuel cartridge, and the resulting reaction releases hydrogen that can power this UAV for several hours,” says Samuel Bendett, an adviser at the Center for Naval Analyses. “Given its range, this could be a close/support UAV.”