Revolutionary Drone Engine Tested, Marking A Hypersonic Future

Revolutionary Drone Engine Tested, Marking A Hypersonic Future

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Venus Aerospace reports a successful test of its rotating detonation engine (RDE) on a small drone, promising hypersonic travel.

Rotating detonation engines are a promising advancement for propulsion and energy systems due to their high thermodynamic efficiencies and compact design. Their usefulness makes them a highly desirable tool, and so various nations are working hard to develop them (like China, which recently reported having developed one that can allegedly reach Mach 16).

According to Interesting Engineering, RDEs work very differently from conventional engines (like rockets) – while a typical rocket engine works by mixing and igniting propellant and oxidizer in a combustion chamber to produce a powerful exhaust plume, RDEs work using a wave of detonation that travels around a circular channel. This detonation wave is maintained by the injection of fuel and oxidizer, which produce a shockwave that moves outwardly at supersonic speed.

The 8-foot-long, 136 kg drone flew at an altitude of 3,658 meters at Mach 0.9. The engine was powered by hydrogen peroxide and produced around 5,338 Newtons of thrust with a 10.16 cm firing ring.

However, Venus Aerospace reported that the location did not permit supersonic flight testing, and so the engine did not undergo full thrust during testing.

The successful development of this engine would enable Venus Aerospace to achieve excellent performance across a wide range of altitudes and velocities. This idea is finally being made a reality after being mainly theoretical and studied at universities rather than pursued for commercial purposes.

CTO and Co-Founder Andrew Duggleby spoke about the successful test: “Using an air-launched platform and a rocket-with-wing configuration allows us to cheaply and quickly get to the minimum viable test of our RDRE as a hypersonic engine. The team executed it with professionalism and has a wealth of data to anchor and tweak for the next flight.”

Venus Aerospace now reportedly plans to develop a larger 3.7-meter test vehicle that would be capable of Mach 4 or 5 and should be ready for testing by 2025.