On Christmas Eve in Valencia, Spain Quaternium’s HYBRiX.20 fuel-electric quadcopter flew for a recorded four hours and forty minutes.
This flight time is more than double the recorded length on Guinness World Records for the longest drone flight, which is two hours, six minutes, and seven seconds. (Since no Guinness representative was present, Quaternium was not eligible to beat the world record—at least not with this particular flight.)
Here is a time-lapse video showing the HYBRIX in flight while a clock ticks away in the foreground:
Regardless of their official standing, Quaternium’s flight time is a milestone for the industry.
Since drones were created, extending the length of battery life has been a constant concern.
Most drones can only stay in the air for 10 to 30 minutes without needing to come down to have their batteries switched out, and these constraints have led many drone pilots to keep extra batteries and battery chargers on hand so that they can make sure to continue flying while doing work in the field.
A picture of the HYBRiX.20 on the ground
Quaternium is not the only company interested in longer flight times, and there are other accounts of drones flying for long periods of time, from over an hour to over four.
These are usually customized drones built just for long flights. In 2016 a drone made the news for flying 72 minutes across the English Channel, and in September of last year SkyFront recorded its own four hour-plus flight that’s almost as long as Quaternium’s, at 4 hours and 34 minutes (in fact, their website currently boasts “5 hour endurance multirotors”).
Both Quaternium and SkyFront’s drones are hybrids that use a mixture of gas and electricity for power.
The news about extended flight times is exciting, and it seems like there are many drone applications that could benefit from longer flight times.
We can only imagine that those who are trying to push things forward will ultimately find new, innovative approaches to extending flight times that will go beyond the five hour mark, and open up new possibilities for ways that drones can be used.
Surveillance of course comes to mind, but there could also be opportunities for extending the range of a drone that provides wifi coverage during emergencies, like the one recently approved by the FAA for use in Puerto Rico. We’ll be curious to see how these longer flight times have real-life applications, and add value to existing drone operations.