CES 2016 is fast becoming a playground and primary showcase for the drone industry with some of the biggest names in UAV saving new announcements for the Las Vegas show floor. Walkera is no exception – the Chinese drone manufacturer released a new hybrid powertrain for the QR X900 hexacopter model yesterday.
The company says a small methanol-fueled engine will charge the standard battery during flight, extending flight times and making “instant refueling” a snap.
The new hybrid extender – the result of a partnership between Walkera and GenSmart – weighs about 2.6 pounds and generates 1,500 watts at peak capacity. Walkera says the breakthrough will give the QR X900 more than an hour of flight time.
The QR X900 is “good-to-go” for a GoPro mount (bracket sold separately) and, although marketed as a hexacopter, the model can be modified to a 4-axis array to increase flight time. Designed for professional photography, the QR X900 retails for $4,399. To protect such an expensive investment, the drone sports a parachute system that deploys either manually or when it detects an out-of-control situation with an inclination over 80 degrees.
Extending flight time has become the Holy Grail for the drone industry. British firm Intelligent Energy unveiled a hydrogen-fuel-cell power extender at CES 2016 and the company says the device will offer several hours of flight time for drones as opposed to the typical range of 15-30 minutes for many UAV models. In May, Horizon Unmanned Systems (HUS) unveiled the Hycopter drone – a model that runs on a lightweight hydrogen fuel cell that company officials say will deliver up to 4 hours of flight time unloaded, and 2.5 hours when it’s carrying 2.2 pounds of cargo.
Last year, German inventor Holger Willeke unveiled the Yeair drone on Kickstarter. Instead of relying solely on batteries and electric motors, it uses a mixture of battery power and good old-fashioned combustion engines. The quadcopter can zip along at 60 mph, carry nearly 12 pounds, and stay airborne for 60 minutes straight.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
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