Rumours are that a domestic drone has been flown into space.
The claim “drone in space” is yet to be authenticated. I have therefore turned to science to see if it’s actually possible.
I decided to trawl the Internet to see what information I could find. I searched for references for the fastest, highest altitude etc for domestic drones.
Current Drone Capabilities
50 mph (~80 kph) is stated by many manufacturers. I did find one reference of 85 mph (135 kph).
The maximum legal height in Europe is 400 feet (12 metres). A Dutch enthusiast reportedly broke the law and got to an altitude of ~11,000 feet (~2.11 miles ~3.4 kilometres).
In remote control mode the Domestic drone typically has a 0.6 mile range (1 km) this is due to the limitations of the radio signal between the drone and the operator. Many drones these days have a mission mode, as the name suggests you can program it to do your bidding. This function usually includes a “Return to Base” function.
The maximum flight time I found was 26 minutes. This is due to the limitation of current battery technology.
The next thing to consider is; what does the drone need to achieve to get into space.
How high is space?
General international consensus sets the start of space as 100km (62 miles), or 380,000 feet. “Low Earth Orbit” (LEO), where many satellites live, goes from 160km (100 miles, 525,000 feet) to 2,000km (1,240 miles, 6.5 million feet).
This is defined as the lowest velocity which a body must have in order to escape the gravitational attraction of a particular planet or other object.
On the surface of the Earth, the escape velocity is about 25,000 mph (11.2 km/s) which is approximately 33 times the speed of sound (Mach 33) and several times the muzzle velocity of a rifle bullet (up to 3,800 mph or 1.7 km/s).
How long does it take to get into space?
The American space shuttle (now retired) achieved the height of 62 miles (100 km) in approximately 2 minutes 30 seconds into its flight.
Required 380,000 feet (62 miles, or 100 kilometres)
Actual 11,000 feet (2.11 miles, or 3.4 kilometres)
Required 25,000 mph (6.9 miles/s, or 11.2 km/s)
Actual 50 mph (0.0138889 miles/s, or 0.022 km/s)
Range between Operator and Drone
Required 380,000 feet (62 miles, or 100km)
Actual The Dutch attempt managed a (vertical) distance of 11,000 feet (2.11 miles, or 3.4 kilometres) However, it is not clear if it had been modified. Alternatively, it could have been in mission mode.
Required At a speed of 50 miles per hour it would take 1 hour 12 minutes to cover 62 miles.
Actual 26 minutes
Sorry, but you will not be able to buzz the International Space Station using your drone. Using current technology it is not possible to send a drone from your garden into space!
I therefore, dispute the claim that a drone has been sent into space! But, it’s just my theory I could be wrong.
To stop things getting too complicated I ignored the fact that air gets thinner the higher you go. The current altitude record for a helicopter is 40,000 feet.
I am not a mathematician I’m just fascinated by science. I welcome any constructive feedback just use our Contact Form.
A lot of my research was done using the excellent Wikipedia.