On April 10, 2020, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) compiled guidelines for safe operation of drones driven by hydrogen fuel cells, taking into consideration the perspective of securing the safety of high pressure gas. This effort is expected to contribute to fully securing the safety of high pressure gas in companies’ advancing operations and dissemination of drones driven by hydrogen fuel cells.
Drones driven by hydrogen fuel cells (hereinafter referred to as “hydrogen drones”) are capable of flying for a longer time compared with battery mounted drones, and this advantage is attracting strong demand for hydrogen drones in such fields as disaster response and distribution.
Meanwhile, as hydrogen drones need to mount tanks filled with high pressure gas for storing hydrogen, companies have been facing challenges in flying such drones at an altitude higher than the predetermined one, taking into consideration the perspective of securing the safety of high pressure gas, e.g., risks associated with the fall of drones.
In light of these challenges, METI conducted the following efforts in order to secure the safety of high pressure gas in operating hydrogen drones:
- METI collaborated with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and the High Pressure Gas Safety Institute of Japan and jointly conducted demonstration tests to assess: risks of hydrogen drones in terms of safety; and adequacy of devices for protecting tanks of high pressure gas, and
- An expert committee inaugurated by METI held discussions on challenges in the safety of high pressure gas and on safety measures in light of item [i] above and compiled the discussion results into guidelines.
Key points of the guidelines
Flying hydrogen drones with tanks of high pressure gas mounted has a high probability of falling under “reckless handling” pursuant to the laws and regulations under the High Pressure Gas Safety Act. Accordingly, the guidelines stipulate that METI and the High Pressure Gas Safety Institute of Japan should conduct examinations of companies for securing the safety of high pressure gas taking this perspective into consideration, and they clearly state conditions and measures that companies as applicants filing a request for flying such drones should secure.
The guidelines explain points that companies handling hydrogen drones should note in particular and show specific approaches therefor so that such companies are able to secure the safety of high pressure gas.
- Manufacturers and sellers of hydrogen drones
- Use appropriate tanks of high pressure gas as well as drones with appropriate bodies:
- Take measures for securing the safety of such tanks taking into consideration the case where hydrogen drones fall during flight;
- Take responsibility for securing appropriate skills of managers or manipulators of hydrogen drones as well as appropriate operation thereof by such managers; etc.
- Managers or manipulators of hydrogen drones
- Keep the temperature of tanks of high pressure gas at 40 degrees Celsius or less;
- Prevent corrosion of tanks of high pressure gas by moisture and drops of water; etc.