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Hybrid gasoline-electric drone breaks a major aviation record

The Perimeter 8 uses a gasoline-electric powertrain instead of a battery to fly 20 times longer

Skyfront, a California-based drone maker, has set a record for the longest multi-rotor drone flight ever, according to the firm.

The Perimeter 8 gasoline-electric hybrid drone recently flew 205 miles over California’s Coastal Range for 13 hours and 4 minutes, demonstrating how small drones can be used by public safety, utility, or commercial customers to accomplish drone missions without needing to repeatedly land and swap batteries.

In the demonstration, the drone took off before sunrise and landed after sunset, and showed 20 times more endurance than a comparable battery-electric system. The drone uses a fuel injected, gasoline-powered engine to convert fuel into electrical current that then spins the eight rotors.

The drone is intended for public safety and defense customers who need long-mission capabilities for surveillance, search-and-rescue, or payload deliveries to remote outposts like US military submarines operating off the coast. Skyfront CEO Tony Mestler touted the capabilities it can provide in public safety.

“This flight signals a paradigm shift in aviation for public safety and commercial applications,” Mestler says in a press release. “No longer will police departments, fire departments, and utility companies have to spend huge sums of money on traditional helicopters to monitor, search, or rescue. Most importantly, no longer will we have to risk lives to save lives.”

The company offers a number of payload options, including forward-looking infrared (FLIR) cameras and thermal sensors for search-and-rescue operations, and LIDAR sensors for mapping, inspection, and surveillance operations. A five-minute battery backup ensures the drone is able to land (and protect expensive payloads) in the event of an engine failure, and can fly with only seven operational rotors if needed.

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