Search and rescue is a valued application for drones, but mountain rescues at high altitude have been difficult due to the technology barriers created by the use of lithium batteries. Commercial drone manufacturer MMC addresses that issue with the hydrogen-powered HyDrone 1550.
MMC’s trained pilots traveled from to Yunnan Province, China to test the HyDrone 1550 in some of the toughest terrain in the world – the extreme altitude and cold of the Yulong Snow Mountain and Baima Snow Mountain. The HyDrone 1550 performed at altitudes of over 14,000 feet.
The official tests were not the first successful outing for the drone, which has already saved lives according to the company. Earlier this year, the HyDrone 1550 was used to rescue 3 people during a mission on Changbai Mountain near China’s northeastern border. Literally translated as “The Perpetually White Mountain,” the rugged terrain and -22F temperatures make most drones unusable in the region.
“While the testing allowed us to present our results in a controlled way, we’re most excited about the practical use of the drone to save 3 people,” said Leo, Liu, MMC’s CEO. “This is truly life-saving technology.”
Drones offer significant advantages over helicopters in search and rescue applications. They are cheaper to operate, their smaller size enables flight at lower altitudes, and they can more easily reach inaccessible areas. Conditions that may make helicopter flight unsafe for the pilot can be navigated without risk to the human operator during a drone mission.
While drones powered by lithium batteries have been subject to the limitations of short flight endurance and narrower weather conditions, MMC’s hydrogen technology has effectively removed these barriers. The carbon-fiber, hydrogen-fueled HyDrone 1550 has a flight endurance approaching that of a helicopter – up to 150 minutes – with a radius of 10 km. And most importantly for mountain search and rescue, the drone can fly in almost any terrain.
HyDrone 1550’s flexible payload system has made it a leading solution for many applications including: powerline inspections, oil inspections, forestry, firefighting, and more.