VTOL winged drone for Maritime Operations

Design and Testing of a Vertical take-off and Landing UAV optimized for carrying a Hydrogen Fuel-cell with Pressure Tank



The Dutch NAVY project focuses on the development of a mission with social impact: a demonstration drone capable of taking off and landing vertically on a ship, while flying like an efficient airplane during cruise.

The concept is called a VTOL hybrid drone. The main power source of the drone will be based on fuel-cell technology. The VTOL will be installed on board of surface ships of the Dutch Royal Navy.

The VTOL main tasks will be:

  • Identification and classification of surface contacts up to and over the horizon. Later on, the type of contacts will be expanded to subsurface, air, and land contacts.
  • Visual reconnaissance of the target ship during boarding operations.
  • Collection of intelligence during amphibious operations, harbor entrances, humanitarian operations, etc.

The project is set up in two phases, each consisting of one year. Phase 1 focuses on the maritime operation of the VTOL hybrid drone, with a special focus on take-off and landing on a moving platform. All developments made during Phase 1 are done with the fuel cell in mind, even when batteries are used. Phase 2 will focus on flight endurance and the integration of fuel cell technology into the VTOL hybrid drone. 

As the conditions at sea are very harsh, multiple test days per month are performed on a ship. Testing in real live conditions brings new insights and solutions to the challenges for drone operations in maritime conditions.

More info on the topic can be found in our publication at the International Micro Air Vehicle Conference (IMAV) 2019:



  • [DOI] C. {De Wagter}, B. Remes, R. Ruijsink, F. {Van Tienen}, and E. {Van Der Horst}, “Design and testing of a vertical take-off and landing uav optimized for carrying a hydrogen fuel cell with a pressure tank,” Unmanned systems, vol. 8, iss. 4, p. 279–285, 2020.
    author = {{De Wagter}, Christophe and Bart Remes and Rick Ruijsink and {Van Tienen}, Freek and {Van Der Horst}, Erik},
    doi = {10.1142/S2301385020500223},
    issn = {2301-3850},
    journal = {Unmanned Systems},
    keywords = {fuel cell, hybrid UAV, hydrogen, pressure cylinder, pressure tank, UAV},
    language = {English},
    number = {4},
    pages = {279--285},
    publisher = {World Scientific Publishing},
    title = {Design and Testing of a Vertical Take-Off and Landing UAV Optimized for Carrying a Hydrogen Fuel Cell with a Pressure Tank},
    url = {https://research.tudelft.nl/en/publications/design-and-testing-of-a-vertical-take-off-and-landing-uav-optimiz-2},
    volume = {8},
    year = {2020}