France mulls hydrogen-powered military drone

Ministere des Armees

L’Ecole de l’Air, the officer school of the French Air Force, signed a research agreement with the Laboratory for Innovation in New Energy Technologies and Nanomaterials (LITEN) to jointly study the development of a drone powered by hydrogen. 

“In a general context of decarbonization of energy, in particular in the aeronautical sector, the École de l’Air aims to explore the potential for the use of hydrogen in military applications,” explained Angel Scipioni, lecturer and project manager at the École de l’Air. 

The project, named RAPACE (bird of prey in French), will try to identify the challenges faced when using a hydrogen aircraft in the field. The demonstrator will have to prove that the technology can be used in all weather conditions.The first test flight is scheduled for early 2022.

Additionally to the problem of sustainability, the use of hydrogen power in a military drone would also reduce the logistics needs. With fewer moving parts to function, a hydrogen-powered aircraft requires less maintenance. It could also increase the autonomy of the drone and speed up its refueling, offering an improved disponibility.

In the past year, France decided to kickstart the research into the potential applications hydrogen could have for the aeronautical industry. Out of the €15 billion allocated to help alleviate the financial impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic on air transport in June 2020, nearly €1.5 billion in public aid over three years were dedicated to helping “the decarbonization of world air traffic.” 

In February 2021, an expansion project for Paris’ main airport, Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle (CDG), was scrapped, upon which the authorities asked for a new study that would take into account the adaptation of the infrastructure to hydrogen and electric planes.


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