Innovation

The long-range drone that can keep up with a car and fly for an hour

A German team are aiming to build a faster drone that can keep going for longer by adding combustion engines.

The yeair! drone Image: airstier

Consumer-grade drones are often limited as to how fast and far they can fly and how long they can stay in the air for.

Typically, high-end quadcopters like the DJI Phantom 3 Pro Professional can only fly for about 25 minutes and at no more than 50mph. A German company airstier is hoping to overcome some of these restrictions by building a drone powered by a combustion engine, rather than batteries.

The firm has launched a Kickstarter bid for yeair!, a drone driven by combustion engines that has a top speed of 100 km/h (62 mph), which can stay airborne for up to 60 minutes and carry up to 5kg in weight.

These capabilities could support new uses for drones, according to airstier: allowing the UAV to film scenes using professional cameras, to keep pace with a fast-moving cars or animals, to film sporting events for longer periods and transport goods over further distances.

Users will be able to plot routes for the yeair! drone on a map and download data from the flight using a tablet app - with the drone able to travel a maximum of 34 miles. Navigation is made possible using a GPS unit and the drone's onboard wifi allows it to connect to a tablet app at a range of 100 metres.

While combustion-powered drones can be more difficult to control as effectively as battery-powered UAVs, airstier claims to have tackled this limitation by developing a "electrically powered alternate/hub shaft". This shaft is "coupled to the combustor to relate accelerations and delay values", which the firm says enables its flight to be as stable as an all-electric drone.

The additional power of the combustion engines should also let the yeair! drone operate in stronger winds than is possible using consumer drones today. yeair!'s dual engines also allow for one engine to take over and keep the craft airborne in the event of engine failure.

yeair! will cost a similar amount to high-end drones, with backers able to secure a craft by pledging €1399. airstier has produced a prototype drone and estimates the finished product will start to ship to backers one year from now, in May 2016.

As with all Kickstarters, you are backing an ambition and there is no guarantee of receiving any goods for your pledge.

The specs

Weight
4.9 kg empty weight

Payload
5.0 kg peak load, 3.0 kg nominal load

Speed
100 km/h (62 miles) maximum speed

Range
55 km (34 miles) maximum range

Fuel
1.5 liter (0.4 gal) fuel tank, 25:1 gas/oil ratio with acoustic signal "full tank"

Engines
6,4kW/8.6 hp maximum power peak. 4x 1.6kW: 1.0kW combustion engines + 600 W BLDC engines 10ccm combustion engine (two stroke with ignition), 12000 Rpm self controlled successive engine start with running control for the combustion engines 4s 1250 mA/h Lippo-Battery for starting the combustion engine. Recharging not necessary.

Propeller Airscrew
13″ x 8″ three-blade for ducted fan construction. Aerodynamic and noise optimized.

GPS
Next-generation GPS chip for accuracy and quick readiness for use.

Lights
Programmable LED Position-Light front/back in different colors.

Legs
Swing-up feet for better sight and more speed, manual or automatic operation.

Wifi
Integrated WLAN with 100m range for connection with tablet or smartphone.

Connections
Underbody 3x servoslots for 3-achs gimbal 1x extra servoslot for different applications. Different profiles are selectable. Power output from 4s battery. Short-circuit-proof. 14,8 V ± 4V

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