Cloud Drive (also commonly referred to as the Type 2b Drive) refers to a technology used to traverse the Galaxy. For other iterations in Hyperspace technology, see Hyperspace.
The Type 2b drives were noticeably more pedestrian in performance compared to previous Hyperspace technology.
Fuelled by common hydrogen, these jump systems often took many days to transfer ships between two points, sometimes up to an entire week. Pilots, crew and passengers were fortunately able to take advantage of the 'StarDreamer' technology introduced in 3145 to remove the tedium of long term spaceflight. StarDreamer compressed time from the perspective of an individual, by slowing their metabolism, giving them the impression that time was passing far more quickly than it actually was.
These hyperdrive mechanisms were also bulky, requiring many tonnes of shipboard space to be consumed during installation. Various sizes (or classes) of drive were available, but ship size still limited their installation. Jump range was proportional to the size of the drive and inversely proportional to the mass of the ship. Hyperdrives ranged in size from the class 1 at 6 tonnes, to the enormous class 8 at 600 tonnes.
Ships also needed large reserves of hydrogen fuel to power the drives. This could be stored in the conventional cargo space, rather than the specialized fuel tanks previously required.
A variation on the Type 2 Cloud Drive technology was the 'Military Drive'. This provided a vastly improved jump range per unit of installed equipment, but with two major trade-offs: the equipment was very expensive and required a specialized fuel tank and, the fuelling process itself generated a byproduct in the form of radioactive waste that was costly to dispense of.
A major disadvantage to all Type 2b drives was that the ship involved in the jump would leave behind a conspicuously visible hyperspace 'cloud' of which it was named, at both the entry and exit point from hyperspace. With appropriate technology these clouds could be analysed and the destination or arrival point inferred. This gave the opportunity for faster ships to arrive at the destination earlier and ambush the slower vessel as it arrived.
This technology did have one advantage over the previous types however, as jump ranges were extendable by class of drive, far exceeding the previous 7 light-year limit. Ships were capable to travel dozens of light-years in a single bound.
Research into better forms of hyperdrive technology were underway throughout this period. One event stands out as particularly poignant. The Antares was a starliner fitted with a prototype fast hyperspace drive. It launched on its maiden voyage in 3251, but was lost on its inaugural hyperspace jump. The loss of the ship, the resultant investigations and the application of safety recommendations as a result, delayed the introduction of this hyperspace technology for many years.
This technology would be deemed obsolete in the late 33rd century, but newer Frame Shift technology.