Luce Search and Chugoku Electric Power Transmission & Distribution Company will develop a flying robot (drone) powered by hydrogen fuel cells in collaboration with UK based fuel cell engineering business, Intelligent Energy. A prototype of the drone, which has been adopted by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's "Industrial Security Advancement Promotion Project Cost Subsidy", will be developed and a demonstration test will be conducted by the end of February 2022.
These fuel cell powered drones will enable longer flight times, greenhouse gas reduction, and the streamlining of power equipment inspection and patrol. This is the first attempt in the electric power industry in Japan.
Luce Search will be responsible for the design of the aircraft for long-term flight and the development of prototypes. Chugoku Electric Power T&D will undertake the definition and demonstration of requirements with an eye on business use. Intelligent Energy will provide the lightweight fuel cell module to complete the system.
At the practical stage, Addition of the fuel cell system will extend the flight time from 50 minutes to 120 minutes compared to the conventional lithium-ion battery type drone developed by Luce so far.
Chugoku Electric Power T&D uses helicopters and more than 110 conventional drones for inspection and patrol work on power transmission and distribution lines. By doubling the flight time, Intelligent Energy’s fuel cell module expands the range of use to improve inspection capability and reduce labour overheads. It will be linked to carbon neutrality (greenhouse gas emissions are virtually zero).
Andy Kelly, Head of IE-Soar Product Line at Intelligent Energy states, ‘IE-Soar modules are an ideal solution for linear inspection operations. Range is key, and more than doubling the range of Luce Search’s platform gives a huge increase in operational efficiency. This improves return on investment and has zero greenhouse gas emissions. We look forward to working on this project and raising awareness of the benefits of fuel cell power within the Japanese market.’.