Rocket-Powered Drone Soars Past 100 MPH

In a series of groundbreaking test flights, a hybrid rocket-powered drone has successfully flown at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour. The innovative aircraft, developed by the Project Air YouTube channel, combines the vertical takeoff and landing capabilities of a quadcopter with the high-speed potential of a rocket engine.

YouTube video

Building the Rocket Drone

The rocket drone was built using a 5-inch racing quadcopter frame as the foundation. The drone was then fitted with an aerodynamic shell constructed from model rocket parts, including a plastic nose cone and a fuselage tube. The aircraft was painted gold for high visibility against the sky and grassy fields.

A key challenge was preventing the 3D-printed rocket engine mount from melting during the rocket burn. The solution was to print the mount in titanium using PCB Way's metal 3D printing service.

Rocket-Powered Drone Soars Past 100 MPH 2

Overcoming Challenges

During the first test flight, the drone crashed due to the camera being mounted on the rear of the aircraft, causing the controls to be inverted. After rebuilding the drone with the camera correctly positioned on the front, the aircraft flew successfully, reaching speeds of 121 mph on electric power alone.

Rocket-Powered Flight

For the second test flight, an F-size model rocket engine was fitted to the drone. The flight controller proved capable of stabilizing the aircraft during the rocket burn, and the drone achieved a top speed of over 100 mph before landing safely.

The project demonstrated the viability of a vertical takeoff and landing rocket-powered drone, with the flight controller able to compensate for the additional thrust provided by the rocket engine.

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Future Developments

The successful test flights open up possibilities for larger, more powerful rocket drones in the future. With a more advanced setup and larger rocket engines, even higher speeds may be achievable.

“The most important thing that we learned was that this whole concept of a rocket booster drone is possible and the flight controller can completely stabilize a rocket on the bottom of a drone, which is absolutely ridiculous really. I didn't think it was going to work as well as it did.” – Project Air

DroneXL's Take

The successful development and testing of this rocket-powered drone represent a significant step forward in and experimenting. The ability to combine the versatility of a quadcopter with the raw speed of a rocket engine opens up new possibilities for high-speed aerial applications.

As drone technology continues to advance, we can expect to see more innovative hybrid designs that push the boundaries of what is possible. The rocket drone developed by Project Air is a prime example of the ingenuity and creativity that drives the forward.

With further refinements and larger, more powerful engines, rocket drones have the potential to revolutionize high-speed aerial transportation and other applications requiring both speed and vertical takeoff and landing capabilities.

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