Urban air operations

Offering solutions where electric drones fall short

Wednesday, 20 March 2024

In the realm of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), High Eye has carved out a distinguished position. The company has emerged as a pioneer in the niche of fuel-driven drones, offering solutions where electric drones fall short, particularly in missions that require long-duration flights and the carrying of heavy loads.

High Eye's journey began approximately 30 years ago as a model helicopter company. Initially, these helicopters, designed and built by the founder, were used for filming services, including movies and commercials. In July 2013, a significant shift occurred when Joost de Ruiter joined as CEO and majority shareholder. Bringing years of entrepreneurial experience across various industries and a passion for advanced technical products, de Ruiter established the groundwork for High Eye's transformation into a professional UAV enterprise.

Later that year, High Eye underwent a strategic pivot, discontinuing its model helicopter services to focus on the design and development of a robust unmanned helicopter intended for both civil and military applications. The team, expanded to include new members with diverse backgrounds—from aviation regulations to aerospace and automotive engineering—dedicated nearly a decade to developing the new Airboxer model.

Overly optimistic

Reflecting on the journey, de Ruiter shared:

We aimed to build a drone weighing about 25 kilograms that could carry a load of approximately 5 kilograms and stay airborne for three hours. Initially, I thought we could achieve this in about three years. That proved overly optimistic. You wouldn't believe the complexities involved and the potential for things to go awry. Over ten years later, we're finally at a point where we can begin delivery, initially to a very limited number of launching customers—no more than five machines per year. Only when our first customers are more than 100% satisfied will we consider scaling up.

High Eye’s UAV, called the Airboxer, is a long-range unmanned helicopter featuring a three-blade single rotor, distinguishing itself by its size, weight, and capabilities. This UAV introduces industrial reliability into the market in a uniquely compact form factor, designed to operate safely under nearly all conditions and throughout the year. Developed over almost a decade, the Airboxer has been tested under extreme conditions across several continents.

High Eye has focused on developing a fuel-driven drone that surpasses the limitations of electric drones. With capabilities for prolonged flights and significant load-bearing, they've introduced a unique product to the market. Their drones can fly for three to four hours, significantly longer than their electric counterparts, making them especially valuable for missions in remote locations or where continuous aerial presence is required, such as border surveillance and maritime operations.


De Ruiter explained, "Propulsion is provided by an air-cooled boxer engine with fuel injection, designed with high-altitude and high-temperature operations in mind, granting the airframe a very high power rating for its size." The engine's operation is monitored and controlled by a sophisticated Electronic Control Unit (ECU), closely integrated with the autopilot. The forced air-cooling system allows for continuous operation in hot and high conditions without compromising the powerplant's service life.

According to de Ruiter, the road to success was strewn with technical and operational challenges, from complete redesigns to the complexities of working with fuel-driven systems.

As High Eye prepares to deliver its latest products to the initial customers, the company remains focused on the future, with plans for serial production and international expansion. They envision a world where their drones play a crucial role across various sectors, from security to environmental protection.

High Eye's journey underscores not only the technological advancements within the drone industry but also the importance of vision, perseverance, and the ability to innovate in the face of challenges. As the world increasingly relies on drones for a wide range of applications, High Eye stands ready to soar where others cannot.

Share your stories with us
Do you have knowledge on current air solutions, potential innovations and vital regulations you would like to share with the UAS community? The Amsterdam Drone Week website and social media channels are a great platform to showcase your stories!
Please contact our Brand Marketing Manager Hilke de Vries.