American-Made Drone, Impossible US-1, Offers Record-breaking 90-Min Battery Life | Demonstrates Powerful Performance in California Police Standoff
BY Zacc Dukowitz8 March 2019
The new drone from Silicon Valley-based startup Impossible Aerospace, the Impossible US-1, comes with a record-breaking 90-minute battery life.
Photo credit: Impossible Aerospace
The Impossible US-1 was designed to support public safety applications and its ability to stay in the air for a long period of time was recently put on dramatic display during a police standoff at a Denny’s in Campbell, California.
On Friday, February 8, at around 5 in the morning, a Denny’s customer began threatening an employee at the restaurant with a gun. This situation led to a twelve-hour standoff with police, which was ultimately resolved without violence, thanks in part to the extra intelligence the Impossible US-1 was able to provide to police.
According to representatives from the Campbell Police Department and SWAT authorities, the US-1 gave officers the ability to perform a regular perimeter scan and allowed them to obtain more consistent video footage than the county’s helicopter.
Because the US-1 can stay in the air for so long without requiring a change of batteries, it makes a powerful tool for providing real-time intelligence in situations like this standoff, which can be crucial to informing police efforts and helping ensure a safe resolution.
At this recent event involving a barricaded subject with a gun, Impossible Aerospace provided a piece of intelligence that our agency previously has never had access to. The use of the US-1 drone helped us optimize the safety of our officers and the community while providing valuable information to the command post through the live video feed.
– Gary Berg, Captain of the Campbell Police Department
About the Impossible US-1
According to Impossible Aerospace, the US-1 can achieve “up to two hour flight times.”
This is significant because most batteries made for drones only last between 10 and 25 minutes—even in the top camera drones on the market we typically only see a maximum battery life of about 30 minutes.
While there have been recorded drone flights of as much as four hours or more, these drones rely on a hybrid approach that mixes gasoline and electricity, unlike the US-1, which is powered solely by batteries.
Designed for Long Flights
The US-1 has such a long battery life because it was specifically designed around the battery, with the drone’s energy source doubling as the drone’s primary structure.
Instead of using separate battery packs that slide or snap into the drone, the US-1 contains individual batteries throughout its structure.
Photo credit: Impossible Aerospace
This unique design means that the US-1’s batteries essentially fill the drone, which means not only that more batteries can fit throughout the drone’s structure but also that the drone’s space and weight are optimally used, all toward the single goal of extending the drone’s flight time.
US-1 Key Specs and Details
- Comes with FLIR thermal and optical sensors
- Fast-charging option allows for a 75% charge in 45 minutes
- Quick gimbal swap (i.e., gimbal is designed to be moved quickly from one drone to another if you are using two US-1s)
- Flight time of up to 120 minutes without a payload, or up to 78 minutes with a rated payload (rate payload = 2.9 pounds)
- Speed: Up to 19 m/s (42 mph)
- Distance: Up to 75 kilometers (46.6 miles)
Another thing that’s important to call out about the US-1 is that it is made here in the U.S.
U.S. drone manufacturers may never go head-to-head with a giant like DJI when it comes to creating consumer-focused drones—the last real U.S. competitor we had in that race was 3DR, which now focuses primarily on software—but companies like Impossible Aerospace may have a real shot at finding niches and thriving within them.
From the beginning, Impossible Aerospace has set out to create a drone with a long battery life that could be used in emergency situations by fire departments, police departments, and search and rescue teams. And it seems like it could really thrive in that space, given the warm reception it’s currently seeing in police departments and elsewhere.
Another example of a U.S. company that could have found its niche might be Skydio, with their autonomous selfie drone. Last year Skydio made a splash at the New York City Drone Film Festival with a demonstration in which their R1 drone filmed a dancer with impressive accuracy while flying on its own without any pilot controlling it.
Public Safety and Why We Need Longer-Lasting Batteries
As demonstrated during the standoff in Campbell, drones that can stay in the air for longer help public safety personnel to better perform their jobs.
In any emergency scenario information is crucial. The more you know about what is happening the more accurately and quickly you can respond. This is the case in fire fighting, when you have an active shooter, and in dozens of other scenarios faced by those who work in public safety.
A drone that can stay in the air for longer helps to support the efforts of public safety personnel by giving them extra insights into what is actually happening for longer periods of time.
Photo credit: Impossible Aerospace
In the Campbell standoff, the US-1 provided key information about an open kitchen vent in the Denny’s that was leaking tear gas and thereby making the tear gas ineffective. This information allowed the SWAT team to adjust their strategy appropriately and was critical to helping them reach a safe resolution.
But it’s not just public safety use cases that can benefit from longer battery life.
Longer-lasting batteries could mean longer BVLOS inspection flights for power and other companies, as well as the ability to use drones in a pinch to provide services in areas hit by natural disasters, as AT&T did in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. (The AT&T drone weighs over 55 pounds and uses a tether, but longer battery lives could enable smaller, more light-weight drones to provide similar services immediately following disasters.)
A few years back when we interviewed Nicholas Horbaczewski, CEO of the Drone Racing League, he emphasized how the current limits of battery life define the limits of what is possible for drone racing, not to mention other types of drone operations across the entire drone industry.
At the time he said he believed there was still more optimization that could be done within the existing Lipo technology. That kind of optimization is exactly what we see in the design of the US-1, where the drone’s shape is defined by the batteries it can hold.
Are you excited about longer battery life for drones and what it might mean for the drone industry as a whole? Share your thoughts and opinions in this thread on the UAV Coach community forum.