“What are these large plates for?” I requested.
“Nobody right here has any thought,” mentioned Shaw. “We will solely guess. This chamber is a Chilly Conflict child. All we all know is it was constructed for an enormous aerospace firm.”
Shaw defined that inside minutes he may 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 strong metal a foot thick so the chamber wouldn’t implode. In different phrases, despite the fact that it was sitting on a concrete slab in Southern California, it may successfully mimic the circumstances, at the least with reference to temperature and atmospheric stress, that the drone would face on Everest.
“By the way in which,” Shaw mentioned, “I nonetheless don’t know what you guys are doing.”
“We need to fly a drone to the highest of Mount Everest,” I informed him.
“Actually? Nicely, you’ve come to the precise 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 related 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 way of the porthole over Rudy’s shoulder as he labored the joystick on the controller like a youngster 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 towards its tethers like an offended junkyard canine. When the ticker hit 11.61 inHg—the equal of 24,000 ft above sea degree—the drone went right into a demise wobble and flipped the other way up. The propellers hit the steel ground 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 check had taken solely three or 4 minutes, however in that transient time Rudy had pushed the drone as exhausting as it might go. “So far as I may inform, it had loads of thrust, which was the principle factor I used to be frightened about,” mentioned 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 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 search out the long-lost stays of Sandy Irvine. And possibly, simply possibly, an vintage digicam that would rewrite the historical past of the world’s tallest mountain.