ISAE-SUPAERO and H3 Dynamics Develop a Zero-emission Pilotless Aircraft to Cross the Atlantic Ocean

Since the pioneering work of Lord Rayleigh in 1883, it has been observed that some birds such as Albatrosses can achieve outstanding flight durations and ranges by using wind gradients over flat surfaces. More recently, two Ph.D. programs conducted at ISAE-SUPAERO have provided new insights into the physical mechanism which consists of extracting energy from wind gradients with the objective of transferring the strategy onto fixed-wing drones. A potential range gain of 40% for a given drone has been identified and this can be achieved by applying the flight strategies inspired from Albatrosses and other natural flyers.

The ambition of the ‘Drone Mermoz’ project is to combine different sources of energy in order to achieve a long-range flight with a 100% electrically powered drone. The challenge will consist of following the historical route taken by Jean Mermoz in 1930 between Dakar (Senegal) and Natal (Brazil). The total distance is about 3000 kilometers which proves impossible with a conventional battery-based electric drone.

The key technology to achieving such a long-range flight is based on fuel cells supplied by H3 Dynamics. Because fuel cells produce electricity from Hydrogen and only reject water into the atmosphere, Drone Mermoz will be a collaborative effort between H3 Dynamics and ISAE-SUPAERO to design, manufacture and fly the first 100% green drone to achieve such long distances. Using the best aircraft design strategies available, ISAE-SUPAERO will endeavour to design an optimized drone with a total mass of less than 25 kg to make an attempt at the record in 2021.

ISAE-SUPAERO’s commitment towards sustainable development

The ‘Drone Mermoz’ initiative is in line with ISAE-SUPAERO’s investment in innovative aeronautical and space technologies in a sustainable development perspective.

ISAE-SUPAERO is well aware of the environmental issues such as climate change and energy transition. It has embarked on a mission to raise awareness and the direction of research at ISAE-SUPAERO puts in place environment-conscious research programs thanks to technological innovations and eco-design of cleaner aircrafts.


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