Dronamics and Cranfield Aerospace Join Forces for Hydrogen-Powered Cargo Drones

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Cargo drone airline Dronamics has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS) to further work on using the CAeS hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) propulsion system in its Black Swan cargo drone aircraft.

This agreement includes a letter of intent (LOI) for CAeS to supply a “substantial number” of propulsion systems from 2026, bringing CAeS’s total pipeline to over 1300 drivetrains, said the UK-based developer of hydrogen propulsion system technology for aircraft.

The two companies have been working together since November last year, under an earlier MoU, on a feasibility study for the application of CAeS’s HFC technology into Dronamics’ flagship Black Swan cargo drone aircraft, which can carry 350 kg for up to 2,500 km.

The feasibility study has concluded that the CAeS HFC system is well suited to meet the required payload, cargo volume and range for the Black Swan aircraft.

As a result, CAeS will develop an STC (Supplemental Type Certificate) equivalent modification pack for the Black Swan to convert existing conventionally powered versions of the aircraft to a zero emissions HFC variant in accordance with CS23 aircraft design standards.

The resultant HFC propulsion system is a half-scale version of the 250 kW system being developed under CAeS’ Project Fresson (the conversion of the 9-seat Britten-Norman Islander aircraft to hydrogen fuel cell propulsion), validating the ability of the CAeS HFC technology to be adapted to different platform requirements.

This agreement with Dronamics provides a further route to market for the modular HFCS propulsion system technology being developed by CAeS and is expected to enable Dronamics to offer its customers zero-emissions cargo flights.

CAeS chief executive Paul Hutton said: “The selection as preferred supplier of hydrogen fuel-cell powerplants for the Dronamics Black Swan fleet is testament to the exceptional technology that our team has developed and also to our aircraft integration design capabilities.

“We have now demonstrated that we can adapt and integrate our modular hydrogen propulsion technology into different platforms, opening up much wider market opportunities to exploit further the CAeS gaseous HFC aircraft propulsion systems from 2026.”

Chief executive of Dronamics, Svilen Rangelov, said: “We are very excited to be working with CAeS on the adoption of hydrogen fuel-cell technology for our aircraft, having successfully completed the feasibility study. The prospect of running flights with their emissions-free propulsion system helps further solidify our position as a frontrunner in the cargo drone market.”