In November, companies such as Skyfire Consulting showed how to use hydrogen fuel cell drones to deliver medical samples and make a 43-minute transoceanic voyage,media reported. Now, some of the same participants are planning to use the same drone for long-distance pipe checks.
The aircraft was a DS30 eight-rotor aircraft made by South Korean drone manufacturer Doosan Mobility Innovation. It can reportedly fly for up to 120 minutes in a tank filled with hydrogen and carry a maximum payload of 5 kg (11 lb). For the new project, Doosan has partnered with Skyfire Consulting in Georgia and ReadyH2, a fuel cell manufacturer in Texas.
Testing could begin as early as next week, when a U.S. natural gas company will begin inspecting a major U.S. pipeline using the DS30. The drone will fly nearly 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) at a time and will then land at one of several ReadyH2 sites along the route. There, the manual operator will manually fuel the tank – a process that may be automated in the future. The drone then continues down the pipe, covering another 50 miles until it reaches the next stop.
The pilot projects are planned to last six months, during which time drones will conduct routine inspections in various weather conditions and respond to emergencies such as leaks. The company will temporarily remotely control it, although it may change as the system evolves further.
Matt Sloane, chief executive of SkyFire, said: “In this process, we will look for ways to automate certain things and be careful not to breach FAA regulations. We must also ensure that we also comply with the guidelines set by the oil and gas regulator, so that’s the type of work we’re going to do during the testing. “