We all make wishes for the New Year. If your wish was a drone with more speed and more range, you are in luck. Alexander Taits, PhD student at Arizona State, intends to do just that, construct the world’s first jet-engine powered high-speed drone – JetQuad. He plans to accomplish this through his start-up company: FusionFlight LLC. You can visit his Kickstarter campaign in the following link:
But what can we expect when we replace the electrical motors in the current quadcopters with RC turbine jet-engines? Well for one, a lot more speed and altitude. According to Taits, JetQuad should be capable of reaching speeds and altitudes on par with modern passenger airplanes.
For now, the JetQuad design consists of four Xtreme Turbines x24 jet-engines. The jet-engines are independently controlled by a central flight-computer. At full-throttle, the turbines are revved at 120,000rpm, producing a total of 96 pounds of thrust. When completely fueled, by Jet-A fuel (readily available at local airports), the JetQuad weighs only 28 pounds.
Clearly, the JetQuad packs plenty of power. This allows the pilot to add-on any sort of modules to the JetQuad platform. For instance, those pilots interested in extending their flight window, can add additional fuel storage. Those passionate about aerial photography could mount much heavier camera systems.
The drone and RC community will surely rejoice if JetQuad takes-off and hits the shelves. But with each JetQuad costing approximately
$10,000 in just materials cost, get ready to break your bank if you wish to own one of these drones. Micro jet-engines are exceptionally pricey, one of the reasons why this technology has been slow to get off.
The story doesn’t stop there. The successful testing and flight of the JetQuad has far-reaching consequences. According to Kickstarter campaign and Taits’ company web-site there are plans to scale-up the JetQuad. The much larger version, code-named Black-Knight, will be used to boost large rockets to high-altitudes, similarly to Virgin Galactic’s White Knight Two. The primary difference is that the Black-Knight is fully-automated and is a much smaller vehicle by size and mass.
According to the Kickstarter video, Taits is at a very advanced stage of developing the JetQuad. The first prototype, model number AB1, was powered by a single jet-engine and stabilized by an air-pressure “gas-puff” system. AB1 was largely under-powered and so a second prototype, model AB1.1, was developed. The second prototype was lighter and launched off easily. However, both prototypes suffered from excessive roll, caused by time-varying RPM of the jet-engines. The air-pressure system was simply not sufficiently powerful to compensate for this roll.
JetQuad is not expected to have similar roll issues. The jet-engines on the JetQuad, similarly to some Quadcopters, are slightly titled. This tilt allows the jet-engine to generate some lateral thrust.
When throttled in pairs, a net-torque is applied to the JetQuad, and all roll effects, fully compensated. Of course, such precise throttle control has to be accomplished by the flight computer. All the pilot has to do is provide a “general-throttle”, as well as pitch and yaw values.
All in all, the JetQuad seems as an interesting and innovative vehicle. The success of this project, at this point, relies entirely on the community and we certainly hope the Kickstarter gets funded!
What do you think about this innovative jet-engine powered quadcopter?