Wired posted an interesting article discussing how a Florida aviation startup wants to supplement electric power with its watermelon-sized “microturbine.” Rather than relying on batteries and rotors, UAV Turbines is developing a tiny jet engine to boost drone batteries.
Just this August, the Florida-based startup flew its first microturbine-based propulsion system, called Monarch 5, in a compact fixed-wing drone weighing about 500 pounds, with a 22-foot wingspan. This quietjet engine can power propellers, generate electricity for electric motors, or even produce its own thrust. And while pocket-sized jet engines have been boosting radio-controlled model airplanes for decades, the company calls the Monarch 5 the first commercial-grade microturbine.
“The small UAV market uses aircraft — typically 500 to 1,000 pounds — that are too small for real turbine engines but too large for just electric battery propulsion,” says CEO Kirk Warshaw. “As a result they’re using motorcycle or even weed-whacker-type engines … Microturbine power can contribute to hybrid systems, generate significant power for vertical liftoff and landing.”
Jet engines — aka turbines — have long been renowned for their performance. They can send fighter jets to supersonic speeds or airliners halfway around the globe with hundreds of passengers on board. They can generate more reliable power for propeller aircraft than piston engines, power military tanks, drive cargo ships at sea, or sit in boxes, generating electricity for remote work sites. And while the airline industry has come under scrutiny for its contribution to climate change, jets have made impressive efficiency gains over the past half-century. Continue reading about how to boost drone batteries.