If you buy a modern remote-controlled aircraft, it probably runs on batteries. This is because electric motors are far simpler and considerably more efficient than combustion engines — but they also have their own set of problems. The high weight and low energy density of a battery means even the best electric quadcopters can only stay aloft for about 20 or 25 minutes at a time.
So German inventor Holger Willeke took a different approach with his Yeair drone, unveiled on Kickstarter today. Instead of relying solely on batteries and electric motors, it uses a mixture of battery power and good old-fashioned combustion engines. The result? A quadcopter that can do 60 mph, carry nearly 12 pounds, and stay airborne for 60 minutes straight.
In a lot of ways, drone’s hybrid gas-electric approach gives it the best of both worlds, like a Prius. Combustion engines allow it to harness the incredible energy density of hydrocarbon fuel, while electric components help keep the craft light and responsive. And when you do run out of power, you don’t have to twiddle your thumbs for two hours while you wait for a battery to recharge — you can just refuel and start flying again right away.
That said, the Yeair has its own drawbacks. Its two-stroke combustion engines make it quite a bit louder than your average electric UAV (check out the test flight videos on the Kickstarter page), and then there’s the whole “flying with a tank full of flammable fuel” thing. Yeair’s website claims it’s less prone to engine malfunctions when compared to conventional drones, but still — what happens when you inevitably crash land this thing in your back yard?
The Yeair only exists in prototype form at this point, but Willeke has recently taken to Kickstarter to gather funding for production. If he and his team can raise the $77,000 they’re looking for, they expect to begin shipping to backers sometime around May 2016. Back the project now during the early stages, and you can get your paws on a Yeair for about $1,520.