Hydrogen Drone Research Aircraft

Hydrogen as a fuel is considered to be an important alternative for future sustainable aviation. When produced from green energy sources, hydrogen delivers zero CO2 emissions – only water vapour. Hydrogen is a lightweight fuel with a 3-4 times higher energy density than kerosene. It can be stored in tanks both in gaseous and
liquid form. It can be burned in conventional combustion engines, as well as transferred highly efficiently into electric power with fuel cells, as an alternative to batteries

The Challenge

Although the use of hydrogen has been employed widely in other industries for many years, the introduction of hydrogen on board aircraft is a major technical challenge, not to mention the tremendous certification effort that’s required. It has a significant impact on the aircraft architecture, powertrain components and operations, as well as on the ground infrastructure.

The Solution

Drones offer an ideal platform for testing hydrogen technologies safely on a smaller scale and at relatively low cost. Hydrogen also offers an extended flight duration and distances beyond what’s possible with batteries. This is highly relevant for commercial applications like transporting medicines or cargo, or for first responders or surveying

What did we do?

In cooperation with Dutch industry and universities, NLR obtained first-hand experience in designing, selecting, testing and improving hydrogen components (both gaseous and liquid) suitable for drones, as well as extensive safety analysis and test procedures.

The HYDRA projects support the standardisation and certification of hydrogen drones for commercial applications, while also preparing for upscaling for large manned aircraft. The first flight of the liquid hydrogen drone is expected to take place in 2023

Project partners

Research organisations: Royal NLR
Industry: Avy, CryoWorld
Universities: TUDelft/AeroDelft


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Roel van Benthem

+31 88 5114231