Solar Plane Flys for Two Weeks

FB

Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
An unmanned solar aircraft has just spent 2 weeks flying over the air in Utah. It kept flying at night using batteries to store enough power to keep the propellers turning and smashed all previous unmanned, unrefueled flight records by some margin.

A few stats:

Wingspan - 18 metres
Weight - 30kg
Solar energy absorbed by amorphous silicon arrays
Energy stored in Lithium Suphur batteries
Flight altitude - 60,000ft

Perhaps the most bizarre thing is that it was designed and built in Britain.



http://www.qinetiq.com/home/defence/defence_solutions/aerospace/unmanned_air_systems/uav.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-10733998
 

Enja

isn't dead.
Valued Member
I was thinking about this the other day.

Does this not potentially mean we could one day have aircraft up in the sky, theoretically 24/7? Unfortunately it sounds like a hideous military use to have individual aircraft in the sky for extremely long periods of time.

I don't really see what the purpose or use is to the general public, a long time flight like that*, unless it becomes a new type of commercial airline product akin to boat cruises.

Anyway it's good to hear that greener technology is being developed for the future.




* I realise this was unmanned etc.
 

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Premium Contributor
Actually they do have some really good uses. Consider how much it costs to place a satellite in orbit and compare that to keeping one of these gizmos in the air. They could link, relay and cover smaller areas in place of extremely costly communications satellites.

Consider as well the number of aerials required to run a mobile phone network because of buildings and hills and the like. They would get around that issue by having a couple of these flying around over big cities. No doubt paid for by advertising logo's under each wing.

I'm amazed that it managed to stay up for two weeks because I remember reading in the Times that they would be pleased if it stayed up for a couple of days.
 

FB

Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
I suppose the most obvious use for these is as surveillance aircraft especially given the altitude they fly. They could also be used as battlefield communication relay aircraft but I'm struggling for commercial applications.
 
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