Quaternium Completes World's Longest (Unofficial) Drone Flight

Author: Michael Cheng   

These days, drones are getting more powerful. The insatiable thrill of piloting a quadcopter above a target is only limited by the UAV's ability to stay airborne, which for most units range between 10 and 40 minutes.

To extend flight times, engineers have developed a hybrid drone that runs on fuel and electric power. Quaternium, a cutting-edge aerospace startup located in Spain, demonstrated this type of quadcopter in a recent (successful) attempt to smash the world record for the longest drone flight.

The company flew its UAV for four hours and forty minutes, which is six minutes longer than the previous record set by California-based Skyfront (using the multi-rotor Skyfront Tailwind drone).

Taking Flight Over the Holidays

The drone used in the world-record attempt was the Hybrix.20 fuel-electric quadcopter. Initial designs for the unit was completed in 2014. Unlike mainstream drones available in the market today, this quadcopter is equipped with a robust genset powered by a two-stroke engine. The component ensures the batteries powering the drone remains in a charged state.

"Multicopters are the preferred aerial platform for commercial applications, but their limited endurance makes them useless for many missions such as emergency response or monitoring of big infrastructures," explained Alicia Fuentes, CEO of Quaternium, during an interview with Digital Trends.

During the attempt, the fuel-electric quadcopter hovered over a clock, which recorded the duration of the flight. To maintain transparency, the company uploaded a video of the demonstration online.

Unfortunately, the flight time was not officially recorded, as a representative from the Guinness World Records was unavailable to witness the attempt. According to the organization's records, the longest drone flight lasted for two hours, six minutes and seven seconds.

Hybrid Drone Applications

Hybrid quadcopters are designed for industrial and commercial projects, such as land surveying, security and emergency response. For instance, in hazardous work sites, it is exponentially safer to send a drone to inspect the location instead of a human.

Flammable elements in the environment makes deploying human inspectors costly, which requires expensive gear, space in the facility; and in most cases, healthcare coverage for the employee. Such requirements are considered to be non-essential for UAVs, resulting in cost-effective deployment.

The extended flight time is specifically applicable to finding safe landing zones. For emergency response operations, this unique feature could provide pilots of UAVs with extra time to get familiar with their surroundings.

Such developments may also help pave the way for extended drone racing tracks in the near future.

"The potential of hybrid technology for drones is huge. At Quaternium, we believe that we will all be amazed with its evolution in the short term. The hybrid race has just started. I would expect surprising improvements in 2018, not only coming from Quaternium, but from other emerging companies as well," said Fuentes.

Quaternium's HYBRiX 2.0 can reach speeds up to 50 mph. Operators have access to a small compartment for storing and transporting goods. When carrying a payload at its maximum weight threshold, the drone can travel over two hours. 

Michael Cheng
Michael Cheng is a legal editor and technical writer with publications for Blackberry ISHN Magazine Houzz and Payment Week. He specializes in technology business and digesting hard data. Outside of work Michael likes to train for marathons spend time with his daughter and explore new places.
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