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New Guidelines for the Safe Use of Hydrogen-powered Drones

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Source: Prodrone Co., Ltd.

Hydrogen-powered drones (known as “hydrogen drones”) are capable of longer flying time compared with conventional battery-operated drones. This longer flight time is expected to drive high demand for hydrogen drones in areas such as disaster response and distribution. However, hydrogen drones need to be fitted with high-pressure gas tanks to store the hydrogen, so it is important to ensure that they are used safely. To address this need, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has compiled a new set of guidelines.

Power that helps to achieve a longer flight time

Currently, drones are powered by lithium-ion cells or other types of batteries. However, the flight time for these types of drones is restricted by their limited battery capacity. Some manufacturers have developed alternative power sources for drones, such as photovoltaic power generators, which allow them to fly for longer without recharging. Another energy source for drones is hydrogen fuel cells, however users need to be mindful of the risks posed by the high-pressure gas tanks for storing hydrogen.

New Guidelines

To address the potential safety risks posed by hydrogen drones, in April 2020, METI shared new Guidelines for the Safe Use of High Pressure Gas in Drones Driven by Hydrogen Fuel Cells. They require companies to take safety precautions in two areas. They are, ensuring the safety of “goods,” such as measures to alleviate the external damage drones may cause if they fall, and the safety of “actions,” which requires users to avoid actions that may damage the drone. Consequently, under the new guidelines, beyond ensuring the safety of the hydrogen drones they supply, manufacturers and sellers are also required to help ensure that they are used safely.

Promoting the safe use of hydrogen drones

The priority for users operating their hydrogen drones during long flights is to follow the guidelines and ensure that they are using them responsibly. METI expects that the new guidelines will contribute to improving the user-friendliness of drones and enabling them to be used for a wide variety of purposes.

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Last updated:2020-09-18