WSU seeks approval for research on hydrogen fuel UAV

November 4, 2014 0 By Angie Bergenson
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Team of researchers want to use a fuel cell UAV for a project, but must seek approval from the FAA

A team of researchers from Washington State University may be among the first to test unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) powered by hydrogen fuel. These vehicles are meant to be used for agriculture purposes, but the team will have to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in order to conduct its research. The FAA holds strict control over the air space of the United States and the agency is very picky when it comes to granting approval for research projects that would make use of that air space.

UAVs are often used for hobby, but using them for employment or research is illegal

UAVs are nothing new. People often use types of these vehicles at parks and at home for simple enjoyment. Problems emerge when these vehicles are used for employment, however. Companies and research organizations cannot use a UAV for any purpose unless it has been approved by the FAA. As such, the team of researchers from Washington State University would be conducting illegal research if they went ahead with their plans without approval.

Fuel cell UAV can stay in the air for 10 hours

Hydrogen Fuel Research - WSUThe UAV that the team wants to use is equipped with a fuel cell which uses liquid hydrogen. The vehicle was designed by students that are part of the university’s club of aeronautics. The UAV has a maximum flight time of 45 minutes using a conventional battery system. Equipped with the fuel cell, however, the UAV can stay in the air for as much as 10 hours before needing to be refueled with hydrogen.

A UAV could be a valuable tool for the agriculture space

A UAV could be quite useful in the agricultural sector. These vehicles can be used for simple surveillance and crop stress management. The vehicles can also be used by farmers to ward off pest birds, which caused some $80 million in damage to the agriculture sector in Washington alone last year. Whether or not these vehicles will see this sort of use in the future is uncertain, as the FAA is very wary of providing approval for the use of a UAV.