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


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

“Nobody right here has any concept,” stated Shaw. “We are able to solely guess. This chamber is a Chilly Struggle child. All we all know is it was constructed for a giant aerospace firm.”

Shaw defined that inside minutes he might depressurize the within of this chamber to the equal atmospheric strain of 85,000 toes 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, though it was sitting on a concrete slab in Southern California, it might successfully mimic the situations, at the least with regard to temperature and atmospheric strain, that the drone would face on Everest.

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

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

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

Shaw motioned for me to comply with 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 big 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 strain started ticking downward. Renan and I peered via 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 backward and forward and snapped in opposition to its tethers like an offended junkyard canine. When the ticker hit 11.61 inHg—the equal of 24,000 toes above sea degree—the drone went right into a demise wobble and flipped the wrong 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 onerous as it might go. “So far as I might inform, it had loads of thrust, which was the principle factor I used to be nervous about,” stated Rudy.

“Why did it crash?” I requested.

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

The excellent news was that the drone had made it to 24,000 toes earlier than it crashed. It was the very best Rudy and Renan had ever flown. The unhealthy information was that the drone had solely flown to 24,000 toes—4,000 toes under the peak of the key GPS coordinates the place we hoped to seek out the long-lost stays of Sandy Irvine. And possibly, simply possibly, an vintage digital camera 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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