For some years now, we could see a rapid development of little drones and their applications. However, there is a demand for low cost aerial vehicles for transportation of small payloads, for measurement and inspection tasks in applications with long flighttime and range. Today, UAV’s for Medium Altitude and Long Range (MALE) are available for large payloads (approx. 100 kg and above), but neither for small payloads nor for low cost. Thus, many of the above mentioned tasks are served by manned aircraft, which makes them very costly, harmful for the environment and risky for pilots and crew. For the upper Rhine region, development of long range and duration could be of great interest, e.g. for border survey, agricultural inspection and expertise, rescue application, air polution measurement of the whole area of the Rhine Region in addition to applications in marine regions.
Within the ELCOD project, which is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in the framework of the INTERREG V Upper Rhine program, the project consortium therefore develop, design, manufacture and fly a high Endurance Low COst Drone (ELCOD), with about 25 kg Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW), a projected maximum payload of 5 kg and a projected range of about 5’000 kilometers. The UAV will be designed to be allweather capable, and it will utilize traditional thermal propulsion systems and alternatively fuel cells will be considered and tested for this application.