The Xponential expo floor is packed with innovations this year. Among the hundreds of startups and spinoffs is a company that’s been around for more than 90 years – Germany’s Hirth Engines. Founded by a student of Thomas Edison who collaborated with the Wright Brothers and Zeppelin, they have a rich history in the development of the two-stroke engine: and now they’re bringing that expertise to the drone industry.
DRONELIFE had the opportunity to meet with Peter Lietz, Hirth’s head of International Business Development, and CEO Bruno Koenig, to learn how the company plans to take their expertise into a new realm – or rather one they’ve been supporting for over 30 years.
While the drone industry has been seeking a solution to flight endurance and the “battery bottleneck” for years, Hirth has been powering sport aircraft, military drones, and hovercraft with their 2-stroke engines for years. With a proven track record in the air that can be achieved only by a company with a long history, Hirth is spreading the word that their engine can provide necessary power for large drones.
Selling into the drone industry, says Lietz, “It’s an evolution, not a revolution…. we are thinking smarter, more out of the box.” The Hirth engine can be used in combination with other power sources in a variety of ways to change the weight/power equation for a large drone. “In both modern warfare and modern business, you need to be compact and quick,” says Lietz. “You can use a 2-stroke engine to power a generator which will fuel an electrical engine, you can use it to fly horizontally, or you can use it to provide a necessary boost for takeoff or landing.”
While Hirth engines are already a significant component of many military drones and small aircraft – they’ve supported over 30,000 missions in Afghanistan – they aren’t selling drones, but a powerful element of a solution.
“We’re just petrol heads,” Lietz laughs. “We partner to provide the perfect product for customers.” Hirth is working with customers to keep making tiny improvements to their engines in order to support the drone and small aircraft market.
“We’re dealing with a lot of different markets – like hovercraft,” says Lietz. “They all help inform our development.”
CEO Bruno Koenig says that the company sees the drone market as an important part of their growth. “I am 100% sure, that this is the future,” says Koenig.
The following is from a Hirth press release.
At this year’s AUVSI XPONENTIAL, global two-stroke pioneers Hirth Engines will demonstrate its future innovation programme and showcase the latest lightweight propulsion system technologies including the renowned 41, 42 and 35 series.
The need for endurance, reduced footprints, lightweight platforms, cost-effectiveness and safer operations are at the forefront of customers’ minds when looking for solutions across a wide spectrum of UAV applications. These needs are best met by highly efficient and effective two-stroke propulsion systems.
Hirth Engines is now looking toward hybrid applications to harness the power of both an internal combustion engine and electrical motors to deliver solutions for the future.
“This is only the beginning and confirms that two-stroke provides a unique role in the future of UAV applications,” explains Peter Lietz, Head of International Business Development for Hirth Engines. “The performance, durability and ease of maintenance for two-stroke engines is unbeatable and provides an ideal platform for the future of aviation, manned or unmanned. We are very excited to be exploring deliverable solutions for the future of UAVs”.
Leveraging Hirth’s heritage in two-stroke technology and utilising existing invention protections registered by the company, the development engineering team has committed to a journey of designing an engine that will achieve a hybrid future. The experts at Hirth recognise that the two-stroke engine is the perfect partner for electrical power units; low power to weight ratios enable higher payload capacity whilst lower torque and the absence of voltage peaks reduce energy requirements.
This research will deliver a whole new generation of applications across maritime, land and civilian sectors. UAVs, and in particular VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) platforms, will move to the next level of their development. Hybrid applications will bring significant benefits to UAV manufacturers, including extended ranges and longer endurance levels, lower emissions and increased fuel efficiencies.
Lietz continues: “The key partnership between advanced two stroke propulsion systems and electric power offers significantly better power-to-weight ratio and improvements in safety levels. Thanks to the use of a hybrid engine application, VTOL platforms in the future will be able to fulfil a wider variety of tasks in comparison to their fixed-wing counterparts.”
For further information about Hirth’s portfolio of engines, visit http://hirthengines.com/.
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.
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