Sometimes the extra speed and thrust of a jet engine are what’s really needed, while propeller craft certainly does have its place. A similar concept has been applied to a quadcopter by Texas-based FusionFlight, resulting in the AB5 JetQuad, a jet powered VTOL drone. The AB5 is “the world’s smallest and most powerful jet-powered drone with vertical take-off and landing [VTOL] capabilities,” according to the company. The current prototype has four diesel-powered microturbine jet engines, unlike the usual four electric motors and propellers. The jet engine will produce a combined 200 horsepower (149 kW) at full throttle. H-Configuration helps in the proprietary vectoring system. The thrust from these engines can be directed either to move the drone vertically when taking off and landing or horizontally while in flight.
The AB5 JetQuad
The speed is claimed to be over 300 mph (483 km/h) of the production version of the drone. The fuel tank is said to last for 30 minutes of hovering or 15 minutes of cruising, with one fill of 5-gallon (19-L). The speed could be considerably boosted if components such as afterburners are added.
With cargo being either attached to the drone itself or dangled on a line underneath, it will carry a maximum payload of 40 lb (18 kg). The company states that the cargo won’t be blasted by the engines in the latter configuration, as the thrust is never vectored straight below the AB5. The total weight of the drone will be 50 lb (23 kg) with a full tank of fuel adding another 40 lb.
The AB5 is expected to be on the market by 2021 according to the FusionFlight CEO Alexander Taits. The price will be somewhere between US$200,000 and $250,000 depending on the model. “The jet engines can put out significantly more power than electrically-driven propellers and also allow the vehicle to travel at much higher speeds,” says Taits. “Diesel fuel, on a pound-for-pound basis, stores 40 times more energy than any lithium-type battery and also will take minutes to refuel instead of the hours it takes to recharge an electrical drone.”