Hydrogen drone
Hydrogen fuel cell drone by Intelligent Energy can fly for hours at a timeIntelligent Energy

Drones capable of flying for several hours and recharging in just two minutes will be shown off at the CES technology show in Las Vegas in January. British energy tech company Intelligent Energy will use the event to reveal a drone powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and hybrid battery system.

Even the most expensive consumer drones, with prices of over £1,000, struggle to stay in the air for more than 20 minutes at a time and their batteries sometimes take over an hour to recharge. But with the hydrogen fuel cell, Intelligent Energy says a drone could fly for hours at a time, and refuelling takes just two minutes.

"Drones are one of the most exciting new technologies," said Julian Hughes, acting managing director at Intelligent Energy's consumer electronics division. "Even with advanced batteries their value is limited. For commercial use, they need to offer better flight times and range. That will all become possible with the release of our range extender platform."

Hughes claims longer flight times and fast refuelling "opens a wide range of new commercial possibilities for businesses, such as drones for inspection of offshore platforms, search and rescue, high quality aerial photography, precision agriculture and parcel delivery and more... This could completely revolutionise the potential of drone technology."

Intelligent Energy has worked with Boeing and Airbus to develop its drone hydrogen fuel cell technology, and over the past 14 months two systems have been tested; one is powered purely by hydrogen, while the other is a hybrid system combining a hydrogen fuel cell with a traditional electric battery. A camera fitted to the drones recorded video to prove how stable both systems were in flight.

At CES, Intelligent Energy will show how hydrogen fuel cells can also be used to extend the battery life of smartphones and tablets, as well as drones. IBTimes UK will be attending CES, so be sure to look out for our coverage from the show floor between 4 and 8 January.