Korea’s Hydrogen Industries Inc. and just announced its entry into the UAV market with the HyliumX liquid hydrogen fuel cell drone which reportedly can fly for over 5-hours straight without needing to be powered up.
For comparison, the DJI Mini 2 SE is good for up to 30-minutes on a full charge. The drone weighs 16 kg, measures 749 mm x 792.5 mm x 597.5 mm and can fly up to 10kms with a payload of 4kg.
Its Liquid Hydrogen Power Pack combines an ultralight liquefied hydrogen fuel tank with a Proton exchange membrane fuel cell, thus resulting in high efficiency energy perfect for military, infrastructure, agriculture, delivery and many other applications.
The HyliumX can be deployed from a Mobile Ground Control Station (mGCS), which has a built-in hydrogen refueling system onboard.
HYLIUM INDUSTRIES, INC. was established in 2014 as a Korea Institute of Science and Technology’s (KIST) venture company. Since then we have been developing the nation’s first cryogenic liquid hydrogen manufacturing and storage technologies with R&D support from the Korean Government.
Receiving over $18 million in investments and partnering with world renowned companies, we have achieved to become one of the top companies in the industry.
Hylium has developed various technologies related to the hydrogen liquefaction system and owns over 40 patents and intellectual property rights, with more patents pending. In 2015 Hylium Industries’ technologies were acknowledged by the Cryogenic Engineering Conference with a Russel B. Scott Memorial Award for the Best Application in Small-Capacity Hydrogen Liquefaction Technology.
With the entry into force of the U-space regulation last month, a big step has been taken in the rapidly developing drone industry. But is U-space the one-size-fits-all solution that this industry needs? For me, the short-term answer is “No.” There are still many challenges that need to be addressed before we can deploy drones at scale and reap the associated economic and social benefits. Let me highlight a few.
1. Harmonized regulations
With the introduction of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulations for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) on December 31, 2020, the aim was to harmonize drone regulations across the European Union and make it easier for companies to incorporate drones into their workflows. And although I am a big fan of the EASA regulations, these goals have not been achieved yet.
The EASA framework has divided UAS operations into the Open, Specific, and Certified Categories. This division provides a good approach, where low-risk operations are in the Open Category with clear rules and limitations and high-risk operations are in the Certified Category, with regulations similar to those for manned aircraft and clear requirements and limitations. The issue lies with the Specific Category, where UAS operations with the greatest expected social and economic benefits take place.
The Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) was introduced within this category to assess the risk of a certain type of operation and determine the requirements for pilots, aircraft, and organizations to perform safe operations. Although SORA is a great tool, it is complicated for companies without experience in the aviation industry or other high-risk industries to use, and it is still under development, with many standards and recommended practices missing.
The lack of these standards and recommended practices results in a broad range of interpretations among European Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs). This starts with the required content of the Concept of Operations (ConOps) and extends to the interpretation of the Ground Risk Class (a harbour in Belgium is considered a populated area, while in the Netherlands it is sparsely populated), the classification of the Air Risk Class (what constitutes Atypical Airspace?), the necessary mitigations to reduce the ARC for BVLOS (beyond visual line-of-sight) operations, and the requirements for containment to prevent drones from entering adjacent airspace or ground areas.
These gray areas make it difficult for UAS operators to apply SORA ”correctly” and for CAAs to approve operations in a uniform and efficient manner, leading to long processing times for Operational Authorizations. This issue also affects the process of obtaining cross-border authorizations. The goal of the EASA regulations was to create an equal playing field for drone operations in Europe, allowing operators to easily perform their operations in all Member States. However, this is not the reality, as UAS operators applying for cross-border authorization encounter the same issues with interpretation differences among CAAs, resulting in delayed or cancelled operations due to high costs (i.e.,it is cheaper to hire a ”local guy”).
2. Licenses and certificates
The adoption of drone technology across industries, from first responders to large enterprises in oil and gas, construction, and utilities, has been impressive. Organizations often begin with a small proof of concept and then quickly scale up their drone teams, exploring the possibilities for more sophisticated drone operations in urban areas and over long distances. To carry out these operations, organizations will require highly skilled and experienced drone pilots. However, it can be difficult to ensure that you hire a competent drone pilot. In manned aviation, there is a clear system in place with approved training organizations that educate pilots for various types of flight operations, from recreational single-engine flights to airline operations. These pilots undergo standardized exams for their basic licenses and specific aircraft and operation ratings.
In the Specific Category, this system is still lacking. It is challenging for pilots to showcase their qualifications and experience, especially with the wide range of Specific Assurance and Integrity Levels (SAIL), Standard Scenarios (STS), and Pre-Defined Risk Assessments (PDRA). It is difficult to determine the type and content of education and training required, the skill level needed to pass exams (if they exist), and to obtain a European-wide recognized license with the correct ratings.
A similar situation exists with the airworthiness requirements for drones that can be operated within the Specific Category. Operations in the lower risk categories (SAIL I and II) only require the operator to declare the airworthiness of the drone, while operations in the medium risk categories (SAIL III and IV) require a Design Verification Report (DVR) from EASA.
A DVR requirement is not a bad idea, especially for operations that could be conducted within these SAIL levels. However, many standards and acceptable means of compliance are still missing or unattainable for drone operators. Obtaining a DVR requires a large amount of data and information about the aircraft’s design and fabrication, ground control station, and operating systems and services, which is often not available from the manufacturer. Additionally, the process of obtaining a DVR from EASA is lengthy and expensive.
Moreover, a DVR is only applicable for one type of operation (ConOps), making it unattractive, especially for small manufacturers, to start the process of obtaining a DVR for their aircraft. Currently, the largest drone manufacturer does not have any drones for which a DVR has been issued, making it impossible for UAS operators to obtain the required data and information or perform the large amount of necessary flight tests, and thus making it impossible for them to carry out more complex operations.
3. Business case
As mentioned, the introduction of U-space will be a big step towards enabling the safe and efficient integration of large amounts of drone flights within our lower airspace. However, for today’s operations, mainly performed manually and within the visual line of sight (VLOS) of at least one remote pilot and often an additional observer or observers, U-space will not be a necessity. If we ”want” large amounts of drone flights to become a reality, this must make sense from an economic and social perspective.
To achieve this, we will need – at least – a few things: BVLOS operations, automation of flight operations, and automation of data processing. In any business, scale is often required to increase efficiency, and the same is true for the drone industry. Today’s operations are mostly conducted within the VLOS of the remote pilot, as BVLOS is not yet allowed in many countries without closing the airspace in which the drone operates. I have to admit that this makes sense as long as there is no requirement for manned and unmanned aircraft to transmit their positions to each other and the standards for the technology required to do this are still missing. Fortunately, we are seeing a lot of progress in this area, both from a regulatory and technological perspective, so hopefully this problem will be solved in the coming years.
However, simply seeing each other is not enough; advanced technology must be developed to avoid collisions tactically, especially when performing operations without a direct command and control link between the aircraft and the ground station, such as over 4G/5G or satellite links. This form of automation will allow the pilot to have a more monitoring role instead of actively piloting the aircraft. As the pilot is gradually taken out of the loop, eventually, one pilot will be able to operate multiple drones at the same time. This combination of doing more with fewer people and being able to cover larger distances will increase the chances of having a positive business case for many complex operations, including the much-hyped “last mile” delivery by drones.
Flying drones highly automated and BVLOS is one thing, but being able to quickly turn the gathered data into actionable data is another. Processing drone data today still often requires a highly manual process of getting the data from the drone to a computer, uploading it to a (cloud) platform, and processing it into a final product. Internet-connected drones, combined with increasing computing power and artificial intelligence, will optimize this process in the years to come and will be essential for most organizations to have a positive business case.
4. Social embracement
So, let’s say all the regulatory and technological obstacles that would allow for growth have been overcome and the business cases turn out to be positive. In this scenario, we would see a substantial increase in the use of drones in lower airspace, not just in rural areas but also in cities. Those in the drone industry wouldn’t have much trouble with this, but the general public’s opinion of drones is not (yet) positive, as shown by a lot of research.
This presents a big challenge for our industry, as we need to demonstrate the value of drones not just to a few, but to society as a whole, while minimizing the downsides, such as noise and visual pollution. For example, many people are unaware of how drones are used by first responders, such as fire departments and police, to assist in firefighting, crime prevention, search and rescue operations, and maintenance of infrastructure, to name a few. It is up to us in the industry and users of this technology to educate the public about these benefits and change the negative perception that people have of drones.
However, simply showcasing the value of drones is not enough. We must also consider how to integrate drones into our society in a way that balances social and economic benefits. This could involve restricting drones to certain areas or routes within cities, limiting the number of drones allowed, or setting technical requirements, such as limits on decibel emissions. Just like with manned aviation, this will require a combination of technological advancements and the development of the right procedures.
After reading my thoughts above, you might think that I’m pessimistic about the future of the drone industry, but it’s quite the opposite. Innovation always takes more time than initially anticipated, especially in a heavily regulated environment like aviation. The pace at which the regulatory frameworks for UAS operations and U-space have been established by EASA (and therefore the EU Member States) is remarkable. Of course, a lot of standards are still missing, and the industry cannot yet reach its full potential, but this is just a matter of a few years. Years that the industry also needs to develop new and improved technology, such as battery technology and quieter rotor designs, and to refine business cases, such as drone delivery and U-space. So, I’m actually very optimistic that the future of the drone industry is bright and that we as a society will greatly benefit from unmanned aviation technology.
Stephan van Vuren
Co-founder of AirHub and Director of AirHub Consultancy
Thailand does not forbid the entry of drones into their country. In other words, you may bring your drone with you if you’re planning a trip to Thailand.
In this article, you will find all the information you need regarding bringing your drone into Thailand so you can fly your drone for pleasure or employment.
Bringing your drone through customs in Thailand
Drones are legal to carry into Thailand by visitors. However, you cannot use a drone there unless you have registered it with the NBTC or Thailand’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAAT).
Forms can be acquired from the CAAT here and the NBTC here (both in Thai and in English).
Note: You might not have enough time to register your drone if you are just in Thailand for a couple of weeks. Although NBTC registration can typically be finished in person on the same day as an application, CAAT registration can be time-consuming. Although, in theory, it should be finished in just 15 days, this is not usually the case.
Do you need to register your drone if you bring it to Thailand?
You must register drones with the Thai authorities before you can fly them in Thailand. This advice still holds if you only fly occasionally.
Regardless of their size, all drones with cameras need to be registered.
All drones weighing over 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) must be registered.
The Thai regulations for drones refer to them as remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) or unmanned aircraft.
In Thailand, using unregistered drones is prohibited. A 40,000–100,000 baht fine and a 1–5 year jail sentence are possible punishments.
For flying recklessly or in prohibited regions, immediate fines may also be imposed.
Before you can fly your drone, it must be registered with the NBTC.
National Broadcasting Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) – for recreational drone usage such as uploading to Youtube and commercial use.
If you want to use your drone for commercial reasons, you must also register your drone with the Civil Authority of Thailand (CAAT).
CAAT is needed for the commercial use of a drone and must be by a business owner or operator in a connected industry (i.e., mass media, film production).
You can apply for CAAT registration for commercial use after the NBTC has given its permission.
Conditions for flying your drone in Thailand
A minimum age of 20 is required for the drone operator or pilot.
You must not pose a security risk to the country.
You must never have been imprisoned for violating drug or customs regulations.
To operate a drone as a controller or launcher, you must apply for a license from the Ministry of Transportation.
Don’t invade the privacy of others.
Note: Follow the general guidelines outlined above, but visit the links supplied by the regulator to check for updates.
Visit the NBTC head office in Bangkok (details below) or any of the NBTC regional offices throughout Thailand, including Chiang Mai, Chuphon, Hat Yai, Nakhon Si Thammarat, or Phuket, to register in person.
Typically, there is no need for an appointment.
National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) AIS Tower 87 Phahonyothin Alley Samsen Nai Phaya Thai Bangkok 10400
Documents needed for registering with NBTC
Be sure to bring these documents along with you when registering your drone with the NBTC.
Owner’s Declaration of Conformity (ODoC) Form and UAV’s Radio Equipment Registration completed.
An identity card or passport copy with your signature and a tourist entrance stamp.
Copy of the registration address or other evidence of residence in Thailand (such as booking confirmation from the hotel).
Images of your drone displaying the trademark (brand), model, serial number, quantity, controller, and installed devices.
Registering your drone with CAAT
Online registration for drones with CAAT is free and can be done here. However, you’ll need to exercise patience because several users complained that completing the essential information was a frustrating experience.
Here is the announcement from the Ministry of Transport in Thailand about the rules to apply for permission and conditions to control and launch unmanned aircraft in the category of remotely piloted aircraft.
Once your drone is successfully registered, the registration is good for two years.
Documents needed for registering with CAAT
A signed, completed self-declaration form.
A signed copy of your passport or identity card, and if you’re a tourist, an entry stamp.
A copy of one’s Thai address proof or registered address (e.g. booking confirmation from the hotel for tourists).
Pictures of the drone showing the model, brand name, serial number, controller, quantity, and the drone’s performance, including any installed devices.
A copy of the drone insurance policy, which includes a minimum sum insured of one million baht per hour and covers injuries to third parties’ bodies, lives, and property.
Use of the drone, including its intended use and flight location, plus information about how to reach the applicant.
It is preferable to obtain your drone insurance policy and apply to CAAT about one or two months before your arrival in Thailand, as the CAAT application process can take some time.
Also, keep in mind that you will have to reapply if your application is denied for any reason, such as the name on your application not matching the name on your ID or passport, so please double-check all the information you provide.
Insuring your drone in Thailand
Before registering with CAAT, you must first prepare your drone insurance policy.
Whether you fly hobby drones, camera-equipped drones for photos and videos, or bigger commercial drones, they all need to be covered by third-party liability drone insurance in Thailand.
The CAAT has tight requirements for Drone Liability Insurance. Your drone won’t be able to comply with the CAAT requirements without this insurance. 1,000,000 Baht is the minimum liability cap.
Drone insurance protects you if your drone causes bodily harm, property damage, or both. In rare circumstances, it may also cover you if you physically harm your drone. An agreement between you and the insurance company is required for coverage.
You must have third-party liability insurance or drone hull insurance to be eligible to register your drone with CAAT.
You will also need the following information when applying for insurance for your drone.
Weight of the Drone
Policy holders’ full name
Coverage of at least THB 1 million in insurance
A copy of your work permit or valid visa
The drone invoice
Validity in Thailand must be evident
You will have the option to buy international coverage, or coverage for Thailand only. Plus, this procedure is easy to complete over the phone or by email.
Dos and don’ts of flying your drone in Thailand
Once you have registered and insured your drone, you are ready to start operating it. But first, read the following important safety guidelines for operating a drone in Thailand:
Keep your distance from manned aircraft.
Avoid flying too close to people, cars, or buildings (the drone should always be a minimum of 30 meters away).
Do not fly above any gatherings of people.
Avoid flying in or close to prohibited locations, such as state buildings, hospitals, and government offices.
Never take off or land within 9 km (5 nautical miles) of a runway or temporary airfield without specific permission.
Don’t let anyone under the age of 18 use the drone.
Do not fly without the landowner’s consent (this includes National Park).
Respect other people’s right to privacy.
Drone operators are required to keep their aircraft in a visual line of sight at all times.
A specific distance must be maintained between drones and manned aircraft.
A height restriction of 90 meters applies to the use of drones (295 feet).
Drones must be kept 9 kilometers (5 miles) away from residential areas.
Flying your drone over towns and cities is not allowed. Additionally, avoid flying your drone around hospitals and governmental structures.
You must always get the owner’s permission before taking off and landing. Alternatively, you can ask the security personnel or the front desk for permission.
In Thailand, drone flights are only allowed during daylight hours, or between dawn and sunset.
Additionally, you must have an emergency plan according to Thai legislation. This includes the need to have a fire extinguisher on hand.
Traveling around Thailand with your drone
It is advised to bring copies of the following paperwork with you if you are going across Thailand with your drone:
NBTC and CAAT websites’ copies of the rules (carry copies in Thai and English)
Your drone and batteries must be packed within your checked luggage when flying. Before your trip, you should confirm the specific requirements with your airline and adhere to their battery policies.
In Thailand, laws can and frequently do change. The information provided in this article should only be used as a reference; always confirm the most recent rules and specifications of the NBTC and CAAT.
From take-off to landing: your guide to operating commercial drone services in Thailand
The drone must be registered with Thailand’s Civil Aviation Authority if it is to be used for commercial purposes (CAAT), which you can do here.
Additionally, the Thai Ministry of Transport must be notified if the drone weighs more than 25 kg.
You must be a business owner or operator in a connected industry (i.e., mass media, film production).
To use the UAV as a controller or launcher, you must apply for a license with the Ministry of Transportation.
The terms mentioned in the Notification that apply to UAVs used for recreational activities (such as a hobby, amusement, or sport) and weighing more than 2 kg but less than 25 kg must be followed by the controller or launcher.
Working as a drone operator is subject to rigorous regulations in Thailand. Any drone with a camera weighing more than 2kg must be registered, according to CAAT. Online drone registration is available under either a personal or business name. It is crucial to remember that your CAAT license, insurance, and NBTC registration ALL NEED TO BE IN THE SAME NAME.
The CAAT has excellent officials who are fluent in English and are eager to assist you, which is very helpful.
The easy-to-use web form is available in both Thai and English. You will also need to upload the following files to their website once you have provided the pilot’s information, drone information, and proof of insurance.
Copy of passport
Copy of visa or work permit
Two photos of your drone with a visible serial number
Copy of your insurance policy per drone regulations
Airbus’s high altitude sustainable flight entry glides toward deployment.
Although Airbus’ Zephyr is still in development, the high altitude plat- form system (HAPS) glided closer to commercial viability in 2021. During a strong year for the vehicle, the unmanned solar-powered aircraft earned approval from the FAA to conduct test flights in the U.S. stratosphere, broke an altitude record and completed test flights that further validated its feasibility as a communications platform and an aerial observation post.
Zephyr dates back to 2003, when an early prototype was designed and built by British defense contractor QinetiQ. The Zephyr was sold in 2013 to EADS Astrium (now Airbus Defence and Space). Currently in its eighth generation, the system, sometimes referred to as “Zephyr S,” continues to inch closer to production.
Zephyr is a performance heavyweight in ultra-lightweight flight. The completely solar-powered drone has a wingspan of 25 meters yet weighs only 75 kilos. Powerful enough to reach the stratosphere and resilient enough to stay there, the Zephyr S flew two approximately 18-day stratospheric flights this year in U.S. air space, reaching 76,100 feet, a new world altitude record for this kind of unmanned aerial system.
Zephyr also won FAA approval to operate not only in unregulated air space but in the civil U.S. National Airspace System (NAS). This NAS permission is said to be a first for this category of vehicle, with Airbus the first HAPS constructor to have gained this authorization.
For Tim Down, head of engineering for unmanned aerial systems in Airbus Defence & Space, winning FAA approval for the test flights was not the least of the year’s achievements. “It’s absolutely a huge step forward to be able to operate,” he said. And there was more: “There’s a lot that we learned this year.”
SATELLITES NAY OR YEA?
Ultimately, Airbus executives said, Zephyr can offer a number of special advan- tages over traditional satellites—even as the systems work together to maximize capabilities.
First, Down explained, Zephyr will be cheaper to send aloft. “If you think simplis- tically about the fact that to launch a satel- lite takes a jolly big rocket full of fuel and so forth, it’s going to cost you a lot in terms of logistics to make it happen,” he said. “That’s quite a tricky proposition. We don’t launch rockets in very many places on the planet.”
Flying closer to the ground gives Zephyr some accuracy advantages, including as a surveillance platform. “Where a new, very high resolution satellite typically can offer about 30 centimeters of resolution,” Down said, “the Zephyr OPAZ payload can shoot pictures at 18 centimeter resolution, mean- ing it can distinguish objects as small as 18 square centimeters, about the size of a plate. Last summer, the Zephyr team shot 20,000 pictures during one test f light.”
As with other HAPS vehicles, latency also would be lower than a satellite’s, mak- ing Zephyr easier to use as a “mobile tower” for cell phone and 5G communications. A Deutsche Telekom white paper notes that the communications lag with Zephyr would be less than 10 milliseconds round trip, compared to 600-700 milliseconds for a geo-orbital satellite. That makes Zephyr a good potential alternative to cellphone towers in areas with poor infrastructure or rugged terrain, or places that have been disrupted by a disaster.
That said, satellites can stay in orbit even longer than today’s HAPS vehicles, and can form large-scale, large footprint constellations.
Consequently, Down said, “Zephyrs are complementary to satellites. It is not a question of using one or the other; together they provide a mesh network—whether that is for EO [earth orbit] or connectivity.
“To complement satellite capabilities,” Down continued, “Zephyr can actually land and be reconfigured, and take off again and go off and perform a different mission.”
Roser Roca-Toha, head of UAS marketing at Airbus Defence and Space and secretary of the HAPS Alliance board, agreed. “I don’t want to say it’s a one-size-fits-all,” she added. “But we have the capability to adapt where the capacity is needed in any of the current infrastructure, whether terrestrial, drone or satellite.”
Down: “They are designed to work together.”
In the future, even Zephyr landing and taking off may be optional. Down envi- sions being able to launch a fleet when weather conditions are right and then “effectively park Zephyrs in the strato- sphere in what we’re terming a ‘HAPS park,’ which gives us a great deal of op- erational f lexibility. You can traverse the globe very quickly indeed—which is an interesting, different method of operating airplanes.”
And by “park,” Down means “park.” Unlike conventional atmospheric aircraft, the system is designed so solar cells can charge the aircraft’s batteries enough to keep it aloft in the stratosphere through the night. The Zephyr’s current record flight is almost 26 days; Airbus engineers are shooting for 100 days of nonstop flight and they’re aiming for more.
For now, however, Airbus’s HAPS offering is still a work in progress. “We are not yet at the point of full industrialization,” Roca-Toha said, “as we are still testing and defining this new capability, working with our customers to operationalize the stratosphere. We are ad- vancing at pace with the flight trials, we be- lieve that we need still a couple of years before we enter into serial commercial operations.”
But this hasn’t stopped Airbus from leav- ing a commemorative mark on the strato- sphere. On one of this year’s flights, Zephyr engineers wrote “Airbus” in the sky, direct- ing the aircraft via 250-plus waypoints. This was more than marketing, Roca-Toha said. “It was actually also a demonstration of the precision that Zephyr can have.”
Zephyr’s schedule for next year is not finalized. Yet, Roca-Toha predicted, “it’s going to be a very busy one.”