Although many drones are now used to transport medical samples and building materials, their 30-minute (or left or right) battery life limits their use. This week, however, a hydrogen-powered drone successfully completed an 1-hour, 43-minute mission to fly over the ocean.
The test was the result of a collaboration between Texas drone development company Guinn Partners, Georgia’s Skyfire Consulting, the U.S. Department of Health and drone manufacturer Doosan Innovation Mobility. The latter provides the drone- hydrogen fuel cell-powered octave DS30.
Using its temperature-controlled payload system, the drone was used to transport samples of live bacteria from a hospital on the Caribbean island of Santa Cruz to a test site near St. Thomas. This involves crossing 43 miles (69 kilometers) of water. After successfully reaching its destination, the helicopter’s fuel cell reportedly still supports a flight time of nearly 30 minutes.
According to Guinn Partners, it usually takes up to a week for someone to fly samples of a patient’s biological fluid between the two islands , and the infection can reach dangerous levels if a disease such as dengue fever occurs. However, because it is cheaper and easier to use drones, samples can be sent to Santa Cruz island immediately.
For this week’s flight, the researchers followed the drone in a small boat, ready to manually control it when needed. In a fully automated test planned for the first half of next year, the DS30 will fly entirely on its own.