Traditional quadrocopters, aircraft with four propellers, suit everyone in the vast majority of cases. But there are exceptions, situations where an unmanned aerial vehicle requires a much higher flight speed and lift than propellers can rotate, which are rotated even by the most powerful electric motors available. FusionFlight, Dallas, Texas, USA, provided its own solution to this problem, and the AB5 JetQuad, which can be considered the world’s first jet quadcopter, was the solution.
Instead of the usual four electric motors with propellers, the AB5 JetQuad prototype drone has four microturbine jet engines running on ordinary diesel fuel. These four jet engines are capable of joint efforts to develop power of 200 horsepower (149 kW) at maximum speed. Thanks to the engine thrust vector control system, the AB5 JetQuad is able to move vertically, take off, land and hover, and switch to a more economical horizontal flight.
The production version of the AB5 JetQuad will be able to reach a speed of more than 300 miles per hour (483 kilometers per hour) in flight, its 19-liter fuel will last 30 minutes in the vertical plane or 15 minutes in horizontal flight at maximum speed. In the future, the developers of the device are going to equip it with additional components, such as afterburners of fuel, which will increase its flight efficiency and raise the bar for maximum speed.
The maximum payload weight that the AB5 JetQuad can lift is 18 kilograms, while the load can be mounted both on the drone and suspended from the bottom with ropes or thin steel cables. At the same time, the exhaust of jet engines is always oriented so that it cannot damage the load suspended from below. Actually, the AB5 JetQuad UAV weighs 23 kilograms, and a full tank of fuel adds another 18 kilograms to its weight.
Alexander Taits, CEO of FusionFlight, said that the AB5 JetQuad will appear on the market approximately by 2021, its customers will have to pay an amount from 200 to 250 thousand dollars, depending on the model of the device. But people who are part of the circle of potential customers of FusionFlight, are well aware that the high speed and impressive power of a small aircraft cost such money.
“Jet engines are capable of developing much more power than propellers driven by electric motors. And these jet engines allow our device to fly at higher speeds than traditional quadrocopters,” says Alexander Tates. “The energy value of diesel fuel in terms of weight in 40 times that of lithium-ion batteries, and the refueling process takes minutes, not the hours it takes to charge an electric drone’s batteries”.