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  • Charl Jooste

A Drone With Crazy Long Flight Times AND No LiPo?!?

Image: Impossible Aerospace

Video: YouTube User Impossible Aerospace

One of the biggest challenges in the drone industry, particularly as it relates to commercial drone applications, has been battery life. What it comes down to is flight time or time in the air. A low battery is all very well if you are doing a bit of hobby photography but on commercial jobs, downtime can cost money. In some applications, the impact is even more important than money and could directly affect human lives. Finally, there has been some massive improvement.

The solution, for now, is a rather novel approach to the problem and was designed by a start-up in California, Impossible Aerospace. While current flight time averages around 25 to 35 minutes, the new design by Aerospace is expected to be productive for around 2 hours with no payload. That would allow it to travel nearly 50 miles (75km). When carrying a 2.9-pound payload it would still have a flight time of 78 minutes which is impressive. It has a top speed of 42 mph which is also outstanding.

How they achieved this is by making up most of the structure of the drone out of lithium-ion batteries. Roughly 70% of the 15-pound weight of the drone consists of lithium-ion cells giving the drone far superior battery power than could otherwise be achieved.

Image: Impossible Aerospace

Their first model in this design, the US-1, will be available later this year. Features such as optical and thermal sensors will be standard making this drone ideal for search and rescue missions, research, fire, law enforcement and policing. In the past, such missions were often challenged by the shorter flight times and with the innovative design of the US-1, this will no longer be an issue.

They are clearly onto something and managed to secure funding from the venture wing of Airbus to the tune of $9.4 million.

The quality and performance of the camera will make all the difference with this new design and while the maximum flight times are impressive, the only true measure will be how long it can remain in the air with a good camera. The first model is fairly basic and does not have features such as obstacle avoidance. The company clearly has plans to extend the range in the future. They even have plans for full-sized passenger shuttles powered by battery.

CEO of Impossible Aerospace, Spencer Gore, learned a lot from his time at Tesla. He realized there were ways to apply the lessons learned in electric vehicles to the drone challenge.

Image: Impossible Aerospace

“We started by asking ourselves, ‘If you’re trying to make this electric powertrain — this battery — fly for as long as possible, how would we shape it? How would we build it? And how do we add on as little material as possible after that?’” said Gore. “It took us in a completely different design direction where what we’re left with is quite a bit more of a flying battery than it is a drone with a battery inside of it.”

The US-1 is effectively the prototype for this proudly American company and they promise more great things to come in the near future.

Gore went on to say, “Impossible Aerospace has a mission to build the highest performance aircraft that can possibly be built with electric propulsion. And our endgame is to become the aircraft manufacturer of the 21st century.”

It certainly is a creative and innovative design and shows a lot of potential. Watch this space.

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