- Tell us something about yourself
As a child I spent most of my time playing with Legos. By the time I was in High-School, I was building robots with Lego Mindstorms and it became clear to me that the only major I want to pursue in college is Mechanical Engineering.
- How/Why did you start inventing. What set you off?
While attending University of Florida, I really got into cars and became completely obsessed with performance modifications. At the time, my daily-driver car was a 2004 Honda Accord and I upgraded it with every imaginable piece of equipment. My focus, was the turbocharger – what I believe is the most amazing upgrade anybody can do to an internal combustion engine.
- Tell us how you made the Turbocharger
For the turbocharger kit – I purchased an off-the-shelf Greddy RSX type- turbo kit with inter cooler package. The kit was a direct bolt-on except that the exhaust pipes and inter cooler had to be custom fit at a welder shop. Tuning of ignition timing and air-to-fuel ratio maps also was performed on a dynamometer to validate horsepower and torque increase.
After college, I got into rocket engines since they were based on similar technology to the automotive turbocharger. I began studying the principles of fusion energy and wondered, how one would apply fusion energy for spaceflight. I created a web-site called “FusionFlight” as an online portfolio to demonstrate various concepts I had in mind. At the moment, I had no clue that FusionFlight would become something completely different. In the spare time, to keep my fingers busy, I also built things like an Alcohol-based Flame-Thrower and an Estes Model Rocket Bazooka.
- Tell us how you made the Flame-Thrower and the Rocket Bazooka
For the estes rocket bazooka I used a standard PVC pipe mounted with some rods on the inside. I launched the small hobby model rockets from the rails inside the pipe.
For the flamethrower, I used a security system backup battery, a car pump, some hoses and a torch lighter. Low concentration off the shelf ethanol was used as the fuel.
In parallel, my father and I would often contemplate on means to reduce the cost of sending payloads into space using more practical energy sources. We came up with the “AirBooster” concept – a fully reusable first stage for Launch Vehicles comprised of four vertically-oriented, thrust-vectored jet-engines. The stage would de-throttle these engine and return to the Launch-pad for a soft-landing after separating from the second stage. In 2014, I purchased my first Microturbine jet-engine to build a single-engine, scaled-down demonstrator of the AirBooster concept, the AB-1. I did not know it at the time, but this one purchase would set me on a very interesting path in life. In the late summer of 2014, I had the first successful tethered test-flight of the AB1 in outskirts of Scottsdale, Arizona. This test indicated that the AB1 was largely underpowered, and a proper scaled-down test would require a quad Microturbine jet engine vehicle.
- Tell us how you made the AirBooster concept, the AB-1
For the AB1, I mounted a microturbine jet engine vertically inside an aluminum frame. I installed two fuel tanks on the frame. I installed avionics into the middle section and a nitrogen-gas reaction control system (RCS) in the top.
Starting in 2015, SpaceX and their fully reusable rockets made the AirBooster concept obsolete. At the same time, the topic of drones started gaining momentum. It became clear that in order to build a successful business, it was time to rebrand the quad jet-engine scaled-down AirBooster model into the JetQuad drone. I had one failed Kickstarter campaign in 2015 but did not stop chasing the idea. In the summer of 2016 I obtained $50,000 angel investment to start FusionFlight Inc. and develop the AB4 JetQuad.
Four years and four prototypes later, I am well on my way to turn the concept of the JetQuad into a marketable product. The first successful flight occurred in October of 2019 with the drone hovering for 2-minute in mid-air. I am still working out of my garage to this day and am currently looking for funding while I continue developing the AB6 JetQuad, a new model that will be capable of meeting the reliability and ruggedness requirements of this drone.
- Tell us how you are making the AB6 JetQuad
For the AB6 JetQuad, I install four jet engines and a 5-gallon diesel tank into an aluminum frame. I equip the jet-engines each with its own Thrust Vectoring System (TVS) and an avionics package goes into the core of the vehicle. Lastly, body panels are installed onto the vehicle.
The AB6 base version will be capable of a 250mph top-speed and cost $100k which includes a 30-mile range hand-held control-station. My target market for this technology is Emergency Medical Delivery. This drone will be available for sale starting in the summer of 2021 directly from my website: www.fusionflight.com
Update on JETQUAD by FusionFlight
FusionFlight builds Jet-Powered Vertical Take-off and Landing aircraft. These aircraft are based on the JetQuad platform which consists of four jet-engines each equipped with a proprietary Thrust-Vectoring System. The innovative platform allows for precision take-off and landing as well as single-point hover and high-speed cruise. The platform is simple, affordable and has no external airfoils making it resilient to adverse weather conditions and operation in high altitudes. When it comes to human life, speed is key, and aircraft based on the JetQuad technology is set to completely revolutionize emergency medical delivery as well as rapid human evacuation.
When considering medical evacuation, excessive blood-loss is the largest contributor to fatalities, especially to soldiers in the field. Injured personnel must rely on the standard form of aerial Medical Evacuation (Medevac) – the helicopter –an expensive and unreliable machine that endangers not only the lives of the injured but also the lives of pilots. According to the “golden hour rule”, the Medevac must deliver the injured to the field hospital within one hour, otherwise their chances of survival are significantly reduced. Most times, the slow helicopter cannot meet this rule and its large rotors prohibit it from performing rescue operations in high-altitudes or dense terrain. Clearly, there is a significant opportunity to produce a “Golden-Hour Medevac” – a compact and affordable machine that can evacuate injured personnel at very high speeds.
FusionFlight is currently working on the AB7 JetQuad – the “Flying Stretcher”. This device has the landing footprint of a human stretcher and is powered by eight microturbine jet-engines. It may be refueled by any heavy fuel in minutes (Jet-A, Kerosene, Diesel). The AB7 is controlled by individual thrust-vectoring systems allowing for precision hover, all-terrain VTOL operations, and high-speed cruise (250mph+) to a range of 60-miles. The system is easy to maintain and costs about $400k/unit. The turbines are integrated with generators for supplying power to various accessories such as blood transfusion pumps, pressurization equipment, and scanners. In a typical mission profile, the AB7 can carry supplies in-route to the pick-up location and then carry the injured person on the way back to the hospital. The injured person is automatically scanned by the AB7 during flight so that by the time the individual arrives at the hospital, the EMT knows exactly what procedures need to be performed. Most importantly, the AB7 JetQuad is based on flight-proven technology, the AB5 JetQuad – a half-scale technological demonstrator that has successfully flown in October of 2019.
This half-scale technology demonstrator also has very interesting capabilities. It is essentially a Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL), High-speed, Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). It is particularly useful for emergency medical deliveries (which require high speed) in environments inaccessible by ordinary aircraft. Potential applications include delivery in high-altitudes, ship-to-shore, and third world countries that have poor infrastructure. It is currently estimated that the medical drone delivery market will be worth close to $1B by year 2025. FusionFlight intends to dominate a vast portion of this market by offering an affordable ($100k for base model) UAS, that can delivery emergency medical supplies and blood faster than any other compact VTOL drone.
Alex Taits (CEO) has founded FusionFlight in 2016 and develops the JetQuad technology out of his garage in Dallas, Texas.