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Skyfire Consulting, Doosan Mobility team up on hydrogen-powered drone for pipeline inspections

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US safety drone consultancy Skyfire Consulting has teamed up with Doosan Mobility Innovations to launch a long-range pipeline-inspection project with an unnamed major US pipeline operator.

The partnership will use the DS30 hydrogen fuel cell-powered aircraft from Doosan Mobility, a subsidiary of South Korea’s Doosan Group. Skyfire’s pilots, with engineering and hardware support from Doosan, will embark on a six-month project to establish inspection procedures along a gas pipeline in the US, both for emergency response and routine inspection.

Doosan’s DS30 drone uses an on-board hydrogen-powered generator to keep the platform aloft for over two hours at a time, able to cover distances of almost 50 miles.

“Distances like that are simply not possible on battery technology,” commented Matt Sloane, CEO of Skyfire. “We’re thrilled to use this cutting-edge technology to help maintain the safety and integrity of our nation’s critical infrastructure.”

In addition to testing the drone in various weather conditions, the partners will stimulate responding to emergencies along the pipeline and develop real-time, actionable reporting functions to alert pipeline operators and public safety agencies of any issues.

The team recently completed a 43-mile proof of concept flight between St. Croix and St. Thomas on behalf of the US Virgin Islands’ Department of Health. An essential element of that test and the upcoming pipeline test will be securing permission from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate the drone beyond visual line of sight.

“With our experience in the FAA’s IPP [Integration Pilot Program], and through our discussions on these two projects, the FAA has been incredibly helpful in setting the roadmap for us to complete,” added Sloane. “We are breaking new ground here and we look forward to a positive back and forth with both aviation and pipeline regulators.”

Doosoon Lee, CEO of Doosan Mobility Innovation, continued: “We are very excited to announce our partnership to prove long-endurance, hydrogen-powered drone solutions with Skyfire Consulting. Now, Doosan Mobility Innovation is ready to provide excellent customer service and dependable solutions to US industrial drone customers with our state-of-the-art hydrogen fuel cell technology and close collaboration with our US partners.”