The talented engineer may have retired from Suzuki, but he didn't retire from motorcycles--or making them fly.
If you’ve ever wondered what retired Suzuki engineer Kunio Arase is up to in 2022, we have some fascinating news for you. The highly-regarded development engineer who helped bring both the Suzuki GSX-R family and the Hayabusa into the world may have stepped back from working directly on motorcycles—but it doesn’t mean that motorcycles left his heart.
On October 26, 2022, Arase Aizawa Aerospatiale LLC, consisting of co-representatives Yoshihiro Aizawa and Kunio Arase, unveiled their new drone project at the Fifth Nagoya Robodex exhibition. It’s called the AZ-1000, and it’s no battery-powered electric drone. Instead, it is an unmanned aerial machine that’s powered by a 1,000cc, inline four-cylinder engine built with a whole bunch of GSX-R parts by none other than Arase himself.
This isn’t the first time that Arase has built a motorcycle-powered drone for this project, either. The first was the AZ-500, which he built back in 2021—and which featured parts from two GSX-R 250 engines (which Arase had also previously engineered in his former career). It was oil-cooled, which he felt was crucial to making the firm’s drone plans a success.
Gallery: Arase Aizawa Aerospatiale AZ-1000 Drone developed by Kunio Arase
Using a motorcycle engine in a drone requires different considerations than optimizing it for road (or track) use. Although Arase didn’t go into extreme detail, he told Young Machine that two of the most major concerns were, of course, getting the weight down—and also reducing vibrations. While motorcycle riders don’t tend to love super vibey machines, it’s an even more pressing concern when you bring flight into the mix.
Arase got to work building the engine, as well as a patent-pending transmission design. Many parts out of a GSX-R1000 are involved, along with a specially-developed, two-axis secondary balancer that Arase says “completely eliminates secondary vibration.”
It’s a gasoline-powered drone, but cruising time estimates are around 11 times the rate of currently-available battery-powered drones, assuming comparable size and weight figures. (Full specifications of the AZ-1000 haven’t been made public at this time.) Although it is a combustion-powered vehicle, so are helicopters. Since it’s unmanned, fuel consumption is a lot lower. According to Aizawa, a helicopter with people on board uses around 400 liters of fuel per hour, while its previously-developed AZ-500 drone gets by on a meager eight liters per hour.
What kind of use cases does Aizawa have in mind for this GSX-R-powered drone? Ideally, Arase says, he wants to see these motorcycle-engined machines used by emergency services, in order to help people. Fire departments, Japan’s Self Defense Forces, and similar are in his initial thoughts, and he says that he’s seen some interest already from those fields. However, he also sees many industries where drones like this could come in useful—and Aizawa is open to those possibilities.