Florida’s Undefined Technologies claims it has managed to increase the thrust levels of ion propulsion systems to “unprecedented levels” with its “Air Tantrum” technology, enabling very quiet drones with no moving parts in the propulsion system, that look like flying pallets.
All aircraft propulsion systems provide thrust by moving air or another propellant, and for the vast majority of drones that means some kind of fan or propeller spinning angled blades to push air through and create thrust in the opposite direction. Ionic propulsion, on the other hand, is entirely electromagnetic.
The process uses a high-voltage electric field to ionize the nitrogen and oxygen molecules in the air, liberating electrons to create, primarily, a lot of positively-charged nitrogen molecules. These are drawn toward a negatively-charged electrode, usually in the form of a flat screen grid, and as they accelerate, they bang into other air molecules and bump them in the same direction to create an ionic wind.
Undefined’s ion-propelled drone won’t be the first machine to use this technology; for starters, NASA’s been using something similar in space since the 1960s, bringing its own xenon propellant along as there’s obviously no air in space to ionize.