Drone startup claims it flew its zero-emissions ion propulsion drone on 4.5-minute test flight

The company believes its design will lead to far fewer noise complaints for urban cargo drones in the future.
Chris Young
A render of the Silent Ventus drone.
A render of the Silent Ventus drone.

Source: Undefined Technologies 

Florida-based tech startup Undefined Technologies announced its unique ionic propulsion drone has passed an outdoor flight test, meaning it's on track for commercial release in 2024, according to a report from New Atlas.

The drone, called Silent Ventus, uses proprietary technology to ionize the oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the surrounding air to create an "ionic wind" that propels the machine in the direction it wants to go. According to Undefined, the drone could be used for cargo.

An ion propulsion cargo drone

Though it's not been used for large-scale drone projects on Earth before, ionic propulsion isn't a new technology. In fact, it's currently one of the best technologies humans currently possess for deep space exploration propulsion and other space applications.

According to Undefined, its "Air Tantrum" ionic propulsion technology produces up to 150 percent more thrust than current ion thruster technologies.

Earlier this year, the company released footage of a two-and-a-half-minute indoor flight test, saying the drone emitted 85 decibels of noise. Now, it claims it's flown a prototype for four and a half minutes, though it's only released one minute, 17 seconds of footage. The drone firm also says it achieved a noise level below 75 dB.

It's now aiming to secure further investment to build a zero-emissions cargo delivery drone by 2023 that could fly for 15 minutes and make less than 70 dB.

"This 4+ min flight required advances in the chemical composition of the batteries that can now provide us with higher energy densities," Undefined's Lead Aerospace Engineer, Thomas Benda Jr., explained in a press release. "This improvement is part of our efforts to target lighter weights.”

Drone startup claims its machine is commercially viable

Undefined claims its "silent" 70-dB drones will lead to far fewer noise complaints in areas that will be served by urban cargo delivery drones in the future. However, it's worth pointing out that Undefined had yet to test its drone with large payloads, which will require extra thrust and will likely make more noise.

The flight footage, shown in the video below, is an impressive early demonstration of the company's technology, but it still has a long way to go before it can deliver on its promises. The large airframe and wobbly flight are both potential causes of concern that don't seem to have an obvious solution. It is impressive seeing Undefined's drone essentially fly on electrified wind, but whether it really is commercially viable, as Undefined's video title claims, is a different story altogether.