Hydra Drones Limited was founded in October 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom and is in the business of developing heavy-lift hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) or electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) multicopter drones for commercial and military use. In January 2023, the company was awarded a £250,000.00 (GBP) contract for the Office of the Chief Technology Officer of the Royal Navy (United Kingdom) unmanned air system (UAS) Heavy-Lift capability Defence Equipment and Support Future Capability Group. In 2023, the company also won a £50,000.00 (GBP) innovation grant from the government of the United Kingdom. Hydra Drones Limited's novel hybrid autonomous drone system is protected by a UK patent published on 25 November 2020, Serial Number: 2578083B. (Image credit: Hydra Drones Limited)
Hydra 400 heavy-lift all-electric or hybrid-electric VTOL modular multicopter production aircraft drone
The Hydra 400 is a modular all-electric or hybrid-electric heavy-lift VTOL modular multicopter production aircraft drone. The Hydra 400 is a modular system that can be configured as fully electric VTOL aircraft or a hybrid-electric VTOL aircraft with two, four or six jets for its main power source. Each step up of adding jets increases the power source which in turn increases its payload capability. The maximum payload weight of the aircraft 400 kg (882 lb). The maximum range carrying the maximum payload weight is 25 km (15 miles).
The aircraft can be used for commercial and military use. The Hydra drone uses advanced artificial intelligence (AI) powered sensors to operate in global positioning system (GPS) denied environments, such as a battlefield. The aircraft can carry and release cargo or military missiles autonomously. The aircraft can be outfitted to medevac injured military personnel from the battlefield.
The multicopter has full 360⁰ day and night view computer vision and can detect and track static and moving objects within 2 km (1.23 m) of itself. The autonomous and intelligent sense and avoid system chooses the best route to avoid high-speed objects on a collision course. The drone can also compensate for unplanned situations such as a change in weather, lack of fuel or change in target location. The aircraft can detect pick-up and drop off areas and drop off its cargo without human aid and safely interact with any aircraft near by. The multicopter uses deep neural networks and learns from experience which increases the level of expertise of the system. The drone learns more as it flies more. Due to the small size of the drone and when it is folded, three Hydra 400s can fit inside the Army's new Boxer armored vehicle.
Some features of the aircraft
Cargo capability: Using a long line and cargo net made of Kevlar, the Hydra 400 can carry up to 400 kg (882 lb) in a standard NATO half pallet (1 m x 1.1 m x 1.2 m) and with a full payload has a range 25 km (15 miles). The multicopter can also mount a payload to its underside using a L3Harris Gnat store release unit designed for a NATO 14" rail system. The aircraft can also carry military missiles.
Autonomous flying: The Hydra 400 can also perform a fully autonomous supply drop, as no human is required to unload the cargo.
Computer Vision: The multicopter has a full 360⁰ day and night view vision. The Hydra 400 can detect and track static and moving objects within 2 km (1.23 m).
Sense and avoid system: The autonomous and intelligent sense and avoid system chooses the best route to avoid high-speed objects on a collision course.
Deep Neural Networks: By integrating Deep Neural Networks into the hybrid sensing system, the multicopter can adapt to varying weather conditions and also increase the level of expertise of the system. Just like a human pilot, the more flights the Hydra performs, the more experience it gains. The aircraft can identify payload drop areas and payload pickup areas and can interact safely with any other aircraft in its proximity
On board mission planning: Mission planning can be performed autonomously onboard the multicopter and can also be adjusted to compensate for unplanned situations such as a change in weather, lack of fuel or change in target location.
Jet fuel type: The jet engines can operate on standard Jet A-1 kerosene or diesel.
Modular system: The Hydra 400 is a modular system that can be configured as a fully electric VTOL aircraft or a hybrid-electric VTOL aircraft with two, four or six jets. Each step up in the number of jets increases its payload capability.
Medevac: The aircraft has the capability of air lifting an injured solider to a battlefield military hospital with the right type of patent holding system
Easy to transport: The aircraft's empty weight without fuel is 100 kg (220 lb) and is light enough for several soldiers to move it or it can be air lifted by another Hydra 400 drone.
Applications and future developments
The company foresees the Hydra 400 to be used in construction, mining, oil rigs, shipping, search and rescue, humanitarian aid and by the military. The company is anticipating to begin flight trials to test the release of missiles from the drone in the fall of 2023.
Aircraft type: Heavy-lift eVTOL or hybrid-electric VTOL multicopter drone
Piloting: Autonomous piloting using Deep Neural Networks and artificial intelligence
Capacity: Cargo or medevac use
Range with maximum payload: 25 km (15 miles)
Empty weight without fuel: 100 kg (220 lb)
Maximum payload weight: 400 kg (882 lb)
Propellers: 8 propellers
Electric motors: 8 electric motors
Power source: Hybrid-electric power source (using turbine engines combined with batteries to provide power to the electric motors and all electronic systems of the multicopter drone) or all batteries
Fuselage: Carbon fiber composite
Landing gear: Fixed skid landing gear
Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers (or ducted fans) and motors on the aircraft so if one or more propellers (ducted fans) or motors fail, the other working propellers (or ducted fans) and motors can safely land the aircraft. There are also redundancies of critical components in the sub-systems of the aircraft.
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