Startup seeks to revolutionize drone flight with hybrid electric generators

It’s hardly breaking news that battery life limitations are one of the biggest brakes on expanded individual drone missions and wider deployment by businesses. But California startup LaunchPoint Electric Propulsion Solutions thinks its hybrid electric generators will soon extend craft operation and increase payload hauls with one simple fix.

Fueling drones further with hybrid electric generators

A spinoff of Santa Barbara, California-based LaunchPoint Technologies, LaunchPoint EPS specializes in hybrid electric generators for various kinds of uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV), particularly those used for delivery and inspection services. Similar to certain modern car engines, their generators supplement electrical power to engines with traditional fuel operation (aka gas). The latter represents a drastic reduction of emissions produced by 100% internal combustion. Meanwhile, the company says its hybrid generators involve less adaptation and technical complications than developing hydrogen options.

LaunchPoint EPS corporate literature calls its generators ideal for “applications ranging from global security to inspection and mapping to cargo delivery.” It says they provide extended flight time of up to two hours, and allow heavier payload capacities than normal batteries. 

The firm notes its products feature a battery management system, and in-flight self-charging capacities by generators that shift between liquid fuel and electricity power in function of motor demands. They also boast backup energy supplies that ensure completion of missions in case UAVs run out of fuel or exhaust battery reserves. 

“Our patented technologies eliminate the risk of several conventional failure modes seen in electric power systems and provide multiple levels of redundancy,” says LaunchPoint vice president of business development and sales, Chris Grieco. “Our highly intelligent control system actively monitors all aspects of operation during takeoff, hover and cruise flight and landing and responds as needed, assuring both optimal functionality and reliability through mission objectives.”

Targeting cargo, UAM, military clients

LaunchPoint EPS believes the hybrid approach will provide a perfect step-up solution between current battery technologies and the greatly enhanced electrical sources that future UAV will require. In the meantime, it adds, its generators will permit extended testing and use of longer, farther ranging beyond visual line of site flights. It also sees them playing a critical role in the development of urban advanced mobility craft and services like air taxis and larger UAV cargo deliveries.

The company – which was spun off in mid-2020 as a solo unit, and has doubled its workforce since – says prototypes of its hybrid generators are already being shipped to enterprise and military clients.

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