Hydrogen fuel cell maker inks first deal with US drone operator

By Luke Geiver | March 23, 2017

Hydrogen fuel cell designer Intelligent Energy has signed its first deal for the supply of the U.K.-based firm’s drone power system. PINC, a California-based warehouse and logistics solutions provider that began deploying drones at warehouse and outdoor logistics hubs last year, will purchase IE’s air-cooled fuel cell system designed to power small unmanned aircraft vehicles.

Alongside battery-powered UAVs, PINC will fly the fuel cell powered versions to provide real-time inventory tracking. The logistics and storage solutions company debuted its PINC Air system last year. The set-up involves drones equipped with sensors, GPS, radio frequency identification, optical character recognition and barcode readers. When deployed at a warehouse or outdoor logistics hub that has transport trucks, the sUAS can perform preplanned flights and acquire truck location data using its suite of sensors. The system can also fly a warehouse to capture inventory data or operate in geo-fenced commercial zones while under the supervision of qualified personnel.

The PINC team believes the ability to keep its drone in flight longer using the fuel cell technology will strengthen the systems use-case.

“Joining forces with an industry leader like Intelligent Energy will enable our inventory robotics solutions to perform more effectively and efficiently,” said Matt Yearling, CEO of PINC. Per Yearling, this new system could transform the way organizations perform inventory checks inside and outside of manufacturing plants and warehouses.

Martin Bloom, Intelligent Energy CEO, said California is a state that is proactive in its adoption of hydrogen-based technology. “We see this region as a significant market for Intelligent Energy’s range of market-ready fuel cell products,” he said.

The air-cooled system can potentially increase the flight duration of a drone by several hours, according to the company. Through its range extender platform, a fuel cell system can be added to certain platforms that currently use a battery for power.