Part of the resurgence of airships in recent years has been due to research carried out with an eye toward long-duration purposes such as surveillance, imaging, and even serving as regional wireless antennas. But developments in unmanned aerial vehicles and military drones, as well as improvements in solar powered aircraft are being combined into smaller, unmanned, conventional aircraft. The advantage of high-altitude and long-term persistence that was once the sole province of satellites is now becoming more readily available as winged drones seem poised to leap past airships.
One example is the Titan Aerospace Solara 50, which has the potential to carry up to 70 pounds (31.75 kilograms) of payload and stay aloft at an altitude of 60,000 to 70,000 feet (18.3 to 21.3 kilometers) and remain there for years. Of course, in the current security-focused environment, the initial targets for these drones will most likely be military and policing applications with their enormous budgets. But, as the technology is developed and becomes available, scientific and civilian commercial uses for these drones will come into play.
"The Solara 50 has a 50 m (164 feet) wingspan. The upper surfaces of its wings and tail are packed with over 3,000 photovoltaic cells capable of generating up to 7 kilowatts." Titan is also developing a larger model, the Solara 60, which will be able to carry a larger payload of up to 250 pounds (113.4 kilograms). Furthermore, the Solara 60 could also provide 100 watts to the payload, enabling quite a range of equipment to be powered on board the craft.
written by Bryan Allen, August 23, 2013
written by Kole, August 27, 2013
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