Wirth Research Develops Worlds First Long-Endurance Hydrogen Powered Terrain Mapping Drone

September 23, 2016

Wirth Research HQ, Bicester, Oxon, 23 September 2016 – Wirth Research has been contracted to develop and deliver a unique and bespoke prototype fleet of advanced terrain mapping drones for DERYL Research K.K. – a subsidiary of DERYL Group K.K., based in Japan.

The all-new Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) will be capable of deploying a sophisticated terrain-mapping suite of sensors and on-board data processing capabilities on long-endurance flights over large areas of terrain.   To allow the highest possible endurance, and allow the UAS to have zero in-flight emissions, the drone will be powered by an advanced hybrid power system, featuring a hydrogen fuel cell as its primary energy source.

Wirth Research founder and CEO, Nick Wirth, said: “I am delighted to be leading the team on this project. The field of UAS design and development is something we have been working on for some time, and delivering a low-cost, hybrid hydrogen powered terrain mapping drone in a short timescale is exactly the type of challenging project that Wirth Research is able to deliver.  Low-cost, high-resolution terrain mapping is something that the world needs right now for many reasons – making this a truly worthy project for us.”

He added: “We have developed and validated some unique aerodynamic technology and flown some amazing UAS systems already.  We look forward to the challenge of delivering this fleet in a few months, and to embarking on the next project in this fascinating field.”

The project builds on Wirth Research’s growing UAS knowledge base, with the additional challenge of integrating a hybrid hydrogen fuel cell power system and payload into a unique UAS.

DERYL Group founder and CTO, Peter Majtan, said: “UAS development is one of the fastest growing industrial sectors, but every industry is only as strong as its foundations. There is an urgent need for new sets of rules and regulations governing the airspace allocated for UAS.  As this airspace extends from the ground level – detailed 3D terrain maps are needed to clearly define and segregate it – both to ensure safe operations of these unmanned aerial systems and to allow us to administer this airspace for the ever-growing number of uses.  These include precision agriculture, construction, forestry and land management, goods transport, search & rescue operations, fire fighting, utility inspections and more.”

He added: “There are multitude solutions for 3D terrain mapping – but none is currently scalable, either logistically or economically, to cover larger areas the size of whole countries, until now.  In close collaboration with Wirth Research we have created a solution specifically designed to undertake this mammoth task. Wirth Research brings to this project decades of knowledge, expertise and experience in computer-aided engineering, aerodynamics, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and lightweight composite materials, with impeccable history of delivering some of the most challenging research and engineering projects for the uncompromising worlds of Formula 1 and aerospace / defence sectors. We could not have found a better partner.”

The prototype fleet is scheduled for delivery in 2017 – and will be the first of it’s kind in the world.


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