Huntress hybrid drone packs a 300+ mph turbojet core
Connecticut-based WaveAerospace has announced "the world's fastest multirotor UAS," a "new class of aircraft" that's effectively a quadcopter drone with a raging jet turbine in the middle, capable of insane speeds and all-weather operation.
The Huntress II Turbojet is a large beast, measuring 4 m (13 ft) diagonally from rotor to rotor. It weighs around 50 kg (110 lb) depending on how much jet fuel it's carrying, and its maximum takeoff weight is 165 kg (365 lb), so it's able to carry a very beefy payload if required, in five avionics bays and up to four externally-mounted containers.
It's designed to be mission-ready in less than 90 seconds for quick deployment, whether launched from land or sea, or dropped out of a plane at up to 6,000 m (19,700 ft). Endurance is up to two hours, and operators can watch live video while controlling the aircraft at up to 30 km (18.6 miles) away.
Once it's airborne, well, you can hover and loiter it as a quadcopter, or you can fire up that jet turbine and let 'er rip in a kind of tailsitter configuration, although it's not immediately apparent how it'll steer as a jet, whether by using control surfaces on the rotor arms or by vectoring the jet thrust.
WaveAerospace doesn't specify rpm or horsepower for the turbojet, but says it'll easily do Mach 0.4 (300 mph/483 km/h). That top speed is electronically limited, and the company claims it'll look into loosening that restriction over time to let it cruise "much faster." The turbine can be started or stopped while the Huntress is airborne, so it needn't scorch the pad.
Importantly for many potential applications, it'll fly in nearly any weather conditions, up to and including Force 10 storm conditions with wind speeds up to 117 km/h (72 mph), and temperatures between -34 to 54 °C (-30 to 130 °F) . Basically, if a full-size helicopter can fly, the Huntress can too – just at around 5% the cost, and taking up half the space. If it's super windy on the launch pad, the company ways it'll use reverse thrust to hold itself down firmly until takeoff.
So who's it for? Clearly, military folk will have uses for a monster like this, but WaveAerospace is also pitching it for search and rescue, critical logistics, high-speed recon and other BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) operations. With a big, fat turbojet in the middle, it's not going to be a particularly stealthy piece of kit.
WaveAerospace says it's raised an undisclosed amount of venture capital to scale production of its other aircraft and fully commercialize the Huntress II Turbojet. It's currently taking pre-orders, with shipping expected to get underway later this year. We look forward to seeing it fly!