Here’s What It Takes to Fly a Drone on Mount Everest

“What are these large plates for?” I requested.

“Nobody right here has any concept,” stated Shaw. “We will solely guess. This chamber is a Chilly Battle child. All we all know is it was constructed for an enormous aerospace firm.”

Shaw defined that inside minutes he might depressurize the within of this chamber to the equal atmospheric stress of 85,000 ft above sea degree and funky it right down to –100 levels Fahrenheit. The partitions needed to be stable metal a foot thick so the chamber wouldn’t implode. In different phrases, regardless that it was sitting on a concrete slab in Southern California, it might successfully mimic the circumstances, a minimum of with regard to temperature and atmospheric stress, that the drone would face on Everest.

“By the best way,” Shaw stated, “I nonetheless don’t know what you guys are doing.”

“We need to fly a drone to the highest of Mount Everest,” I advised him.

“Actually? Effectively, you’ve come to the fitting place.”

Shaw motioned for me to observe him round to the again of the chamber. Right here, on a concrete slab, sat a number of items of heavy equipment. There was a boiler used to pump steam, a refrigeration unit, and two large vacuum pumps linked to the again of the chamber with rusty four-inch pipes.

Because the pumps sucked air out of the chamber, a numeric show recording barometric stress started ticking downward. Renan and I peered by the porthole over Rudy’s shoulder as he labored the joystick on the controller like an adolescent going for his excessive rating on Grand Theft Auto. The drone, hovering about 18 inches above the ground of the chamber, veered wildly back and forth and snapped towards its tethers like an indignant junkyard canine. When the ticker hit 11.61 inHg—the equal of 24,000 ft above sea degree—the drone went right into a loss of life wobble and flipped the other way up. The propellers hit the steel flooring and blew aside, spraying chunks of black plastic into the air like shrapnel. The Encourage 2 lay twitching on its again like a wounded animal.

“Shut down!” yelled Renan.

The take a look at had taken solely three or 4 minutes, however in that temporary time Rudy had pushed the drone as arduous as it will go. “So far as I might inform, it had loads of thrust, which was the principle factor I used to be apprehensive about,” stated Rudy.

“Why did it crash?” I requested.

“I’m not completely positive,” he replied.

The excellent news was that the drone had made it to 24,000 ft earlier than it crashed. It was the very best Rudy and Renan had ever flown. The dangerous information was that the drone had solely flown to 24,000 ft—4,000 ft under the peak of the key GPS coordinates the place we hoped to seek out the long-lost stays of Sandy Irvine. And perhaps, simply perhaps, an vintage digicam that would rewrite the historical past of the world’s tallest mountain.


From The Third Pole: Mystery, Obsession, and Death on Mount Everest by Mark Synnott with permission from Dutton, an imprint of the Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random Home, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Mark Synnott.


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