A (quiet) ion-powered drone by 2024?

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This fun machine has earned the nickname “flying wringer” in some American media. If it is true that its appearance is a bit strange, the drone developed by Undefined Technologies is a small concentrate of technology. In particular, it uses “ion wind” to move through the air.

The US-based company has been talking about its ion-powered drone project for two years. However, it seems that the project has continued to move forward, as Undefined Technologies has announced its desire to bring a commercial launch of this drone in 2024. Called “Silent Ventus”, the machine has the particularity of not using any propellant to stay. in the air. Actually, it is its structure as a whole that allows it to move.

The process is as follows: the “grids” that make it up are designed to create high-voltage electric fields. These can ionize (electrically charge) nitrogen and oxygen molecules in the air, releasing electrons. A large number of mostly positively charged nitrogen molecules are then created. These are attracted to a negatively charged electrode. As they speed up, they hit other air molecules and collide with them in the same direction. This is called the “ion wind”. The resulting thrust is used to propel the drone through the air.

The technology itself is not new. In particular, it has already been used in the space field, for different tasks. Some terrestrial projects have also used it, on a small scale: in the context of a French project, Orville the mouse had took off on a large very light floating structure in 2003.

However, Undefined Technologies claims that its technology, dubbed “Air Tantrum,” produces “ higher thrust levels, up to 150% compared to current ion thruster technologies “. This would represent a good evolution compared to the first demo video that was published in 2020. This one only showed a few seconds of a flight altogether quite wobbly inside, in a very small space.

longer flight time

In December 2021, the company published a 39 second video, and claimed to have managed to complete a two and a half minute flight. To date, it is four minutes and thirty seconds of flight that she claims to have achieved, although the new presentation video has been edited and shows one minute and 17 seconds of edited images.

The company also claims to have achieved a noise level of 75 decibels, roughly the equivalent of a vacuum cleaner. Therefore, it is not really silent: the drone’s designers have reduced the noise, since its first prototype had a sound level of 90 decibels. Undefined Technologies is requesting a new investment in a cargo delivery drone product that it says will fly for 15 minutes and generate less than 70dB by the end of 2023.” This flight of more than 4 minutes required advances in the chemical composition of batteries, which can now provide us with higher energy densities. says Undefined’s chief aerospace engineer, Thomas Benda Jr., in a Press release.

This does not prevent certain media, such as the New Atlas, from being skeptical in its items. “ It’s unclear if reaching 15 minutes of endurance will require further advances in battery chemistry, or if this company has other tricks up its sleeve. “. There is also the question of the load, relative to a delivery drone. Finally, in terms of the noise emitted, it is difficult to know at what distance it was recorded, which can certainly vary the performance. If the company manages to convince the investors, these points may be clarified in the near future.

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