Autonomous drones can be used to deliver both commercial and special shipments (for instance, delivering the donated organs, biological materials to health care centers), that’s why several companies are working on alternative drives. Although electric motors powered by Li-ion batteries are interesting, their performance and action radius are unlike the internal combustion engines.
The American company FusionFlight presented “the smallest and most powerful jet-powered drone in the world with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities” and named it AB5 JetQuad. Instead of conventional engines and a propeller, the prototype has four microturbines jet-engines, which together produce 200 horsepower (149 kW). And, thanks to the proprietary H-Configuration system, thrust from these engines can be directed to move the drone horizontally or vertically during takeoff and landing.
The serial version of the AB5 JetQuad will, according to the developers, accelerate to 483 km/h (300 mph) and a theoretical height limit of 9,144 m. In this case, one filled fuel tank with a volume of 19 liters is suitable for a 30-minute hover or a 15-minute cruise flight. In the future, the addition of components such as afterburners can significantly increase its speed.
The maximum range of the jet-powered drone is 25 miles (40 km). The maximum payload of the drone is 18 kg (40 lb), while the load is either attached to the drone itself or hangs on a cable under it. The drone itself weighs the claimed 23 kg (50 lb). At the same time, the company claims that hot nozzle gases will not be a risk to the load because their thrust is not directed directly under the drone chassis.
Jet engines can provide significantly higher power than electrically powered propellers and also allow flying equipment to achieve much higher speeds. Also, according to the FusionFlight CEO, diesel has a much higher energy density per unit weight than a Li-ion battery, while refueling takes only a few minutes.
The AB5 JetQuad is expected to appear in the market by 2021, but a price ranging from $ 200,000 to $ 250,000, depending on the model, suggests that it will not be a product for avian photography enthusiasts. Potential customers will be users who appreciate high speed and performance.