Protonex to supply fuel cell propulsion system for FlyH2 UAVs


Ballard Power Systems subsidiary Protonex has secured an order to provide its fuel cell propulsion system and design services for South African hydrogen fuel cell powered commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs) developer FlyH2 Aerospace.

Commercial details of the order have not yet been disclosed.

Once delivered, the Protonex fuel cell system will be integrated into all three aircraft currently in the development pipeline of FlyH2.

The integration will be starting with FlyH2’s UA Plant prototype drone, followed by the UA Alpha aircraft.

FlyH2 Aerospace co-founder Mark Wyk said: “Protonex systems bring with them unique new capabilities for our aircraft, allowing us to quickly fulfil our vision of producing high-quality, rugged and reliable long-endurance electric unmanned aircraft.”

“These will be the first civilian drones that we have powered, in addition to our work on military UAVs with several global aerospace customers.”

The company’s 30kg UA Plant will be developed as a fuel cell-powered agricultural utility aircraft with a 9h flight endurance.

FlyH2’s UA Alpha will be a long-range, long-endurance survey and reconnaissance aircraft capable of carrying advanced sensors, which can be used to monitor environmental variables.

It will feature a 8.2m wingspan and a maximum cruising altitude of 4,250m, as well as be able to cover a flight distance of more than 600km.

FlyH2’s third drone, UA Gecko, is currently being designed to monitor physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, pipelines and power lines.

Protonex president Dr Paul Osenar said: “When combined with improved reliability and other advantages over internal combustion systems, fuel cells are proving to be a high-value fit for UAVs.

“These will be the first civilian drones that we have powered, in addition to our work on military UAVs with several global aerospace customers.”

The company also noted that a fuel cell propulsion system offers more endurance and other benefits to a drone than an internal combustion engine.


Image: UA Alpha drone, FlyH2 Aerospace’s flagship remotely piloted aircraft. Photo: courtesy of FlyH2 Aerospace.