Currently, electric multirotor drones for professional applications are insufficient from a flight time perspective. Commercially, a multirotor drone that can remain airborne for a longer period would greatly benefit several areas: civil protection, first response and infrastructure monitoring, to name a few. The EU-funded HYBRiX project met this critical need with the first-of-its-kind hybrid fuel-electric multirotor drone. This disruptive innovation set a world record of endurance with a 10-hour flight. What is more, HYBRiX can carry out commercial missions more efficiently with 40 times less fuel consumption per hour and with a 90 % cost savings compared to a helicopter performing a similar mission.
Innovative minds make the impossible possible
Alicia Fuentes, CEO of Quaternium, the host company, and project coordinator explains: “In 2016 when we started the HYBCOPTER project (our small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) Instrument Phase 1 prior to Phase 2 HYBRiX) multirotors were known to be exclusively electric and at that time it was considered impossible to make them hybrid.” Thanks to the SME Instrument, after all these years of innovation and dissemination efforts, hybrid drones with extended endurance have become a recognised category in the industry.
Pioneer in the drone industry
In 2016, Quaternium became the first company in the world to demonstrate that it was possible to have a hybrid fuel-electric propulsion system for drones, the same as hybrid cars. Hence HYBRiX was born. Since that first demonstration flight of over 3 hours (at that time electric drones could only fly for 30 minutes), the company has broken its own endurance records several times by over 10 hours of endurance, before the end of the SME Instrument. The HYBRiX innovation is a very accessible solution that complies with the regulation for the most popular category of drones (those under 25 kg take-off weight), making it a great option for a wide range of clients. The project’s main achievement, besides setting the world record of endurance with a 10-hour flight, was carrying out pilots on four continents with vastly different climate and geographical conditions.
Hybrid drones gain momentum in commercial vertical markets
Hybrid drones are already becoming a trend in the industry, far beyond the impact that Quaternium alone could generate. “The new market that we envisioned has become a reality and even though its growth will take time based on the complexity of the current social, regulatory and economic context, we are a step closer every day,” adds Fuentes. This will help consolidate the market and spread hybrid drones along the main commercial verticals, such as emergency response, security, industrial inspection, logistics or agriculture. Fuentes concludes: “What we realised so far is that our innovation unlocks business opportunities for third parties with technologies that could not be carried onboard a small drone before.” Now they have a way to make their cases viable for all sorts of applications. HYBRiX’s open-source technology makes it highly compatible with third-party developments, thus increasing its accessibility.
HYBRiX, hybrid, multirotor drone, multirotor, fuel-electric, flight time, Quaternium