LiquidPiston and its MIT grad CEO Alec Shkolnik have spent more than a decade on a revolutionary design that inverts the rotary engine that Felix Wankel created in 1960. The result is a small, powerful, multi-fuel capable engine: one that LiquidPiston believes will help drone manufacturers increase flight endurance by more than 50%.
The company has already raised $18 million, but DARPA has just added $2.5 million (bringing DARPA’s total investment to $6 million) to continue development of its 30kW X4 rotary diesel engine prototype. This additional funding comes as the company has passed all of the requirements of Phase 1 of the project.
The engine design has major benefits to offer. “For the military, LiquidPiston’s propulsion can also reduce UAV engine heat signature and minimizing vibration impact on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance equipment,” says the company.
Like many emerging technologies initially developed for the military, however, LiquidPiston sees major advantages for the commercial market. Shkolnik recently attended Uber Elevate, and believes “LiquidPiston
When development of this fully packaged engine is complete, the 30kW X4 engine is expected to weigh just 30lbs and fit into a 10” box. “The efficient, lightweight, and powerful rotary Diesel/JP-8 X4 engine offers a disruptive power solution for direct as well as hybrid electric propulsion and power generation,” says LiquidPiston.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.