Supersonic drone came close to breaking sound barrier in a test flight

  • Watch this robotic aircraft from aerospace startup, Venus Aerospace, embark on its inaugural test flight
  • It hit a top speed of Mach 0.9
  • It’s hoped it will pave the way for future supersonic travel

Published on Apr 03, 2024 at 3:25 PM (UTC+4)
by Amelia Jean Hershman-Jones

Last updated on Apr 03, 2024 at 7:11 PM (UTC+4)
Edited by Tom Wood

Supersonic drone came close to breaking sound barrier in a test flight

You won’t want to miss this supersonic drone almost breaking the sound barrier in a test flight.

The robotic aircraft from aerospace startup, Venus Aerospace, was embarking on its inaugural test flight.

And, as it hit a top speed of Mach 0.9, let’s just say it went well.

YouTube/Venus Aerospace

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The test flight took place back in March and was considered a huge success.

And this latest step for the supersonic drone means that the dream of breaking the sound barrier is edging closer to reality.

It’s hoped this landmark first flight will pave the way for supersonic travel in the near future.

The prototype supersonic drone measures 2.4 m (8 ft) long and weighs 300 pounds.

The inaugural flight was powered by a hydrogen peroxide monopropellant engine.

However, the supersonic drone also has a groundbreaking Rotating Detonation Rocket Engine (RDRE) propulsion system.

The robotic aircraft was dropped at an altitude of 3,658 meters (12,000 feet) and accelerated to a top speed of Mach 0.9 (1,112 km/h / 691 mph) over the 10-mile test flight.

The engine was running at 80 percent thrust to keep the drone cruising just below the Mach 1 speed of sound.

The celebrated test flight artfully demonstrated flight controls, stability, telemetry, ground operations, air launch, and one leg of the RDRE propulsion system.

“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,” Venus Aerospace CTO and cofounder Andrew Duggleby said in a statement.

“The team executed with professionalism and has a wealth of data to anchor and tweak for the next flight.”

While supersonic drones aren’t exactly a new concept and have been used by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) since the early 1950s, these aircraft relied on a jet engine for propulsion.

Where Venus Aerospace is different is its unprecedented rocket engine.

According to its creator company, the RDRE creates 15 percent more thrust than conventional engines, allowing it to go further than its competitors on less fuel.

The RDRE will also be at the heart of Texan company, Venus’ hypersonic spaceplane, named Stargazer.

It will jet off from airports using jet engines, then switch to the rocket engine to ‘gently’ propel itself to an altitude of 51,816 meters (170,000 feet) and a speed of Mach 9 (529,8316 km/h / 6,905 mph).

The craft will get you from San Francisco to Japan or Houston to London within an hour.

Venus will have to navigate a complex web of regulatory and certification aviation processes.

YouTube/Venus Aerospace

And it faces some stiff competition from other aviation innovators.

Boom Overture, for example, is aiming to replace Concorde.

Retired in 2003, Concorde was the last and only supersonic commercial aircraft – with the wild cost of a ticket largely to blame for its demise.

Venus claims to have won contracts from several U.S. government agencies to accelerate the development of RDRE for hypersonic and space missions.

“Up next is RDRE flight, and ultimately hypersonic flight, proving that the RDRE is the engine that unlocks the hypersonic economy,” Venus CEO and cofounder, Sarah Duggleby said.

# Tags - Drone, Supersonic, Tech


Amelia Jean Hershman-Jones

London-based Amelia cut her journalistic teeth covering all things lifestyle, wellness and luxury in the UK capital. Fast-forward a decade and the experienced content creator and editor has put pen to paper for glossy magazines, busy newsrooms and coveted brands. When her OOO is on you can find her spending quality time with her young family, in the gym or exploring the city she loves.