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+ - Engineers Develop Drone That Can Fly Continuously For 5 Years

Submitted by Hugh Pickens DOT Com
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "CBS reports that Titan Aerospace has presented its design for “atmospheric satellites” that fly at 65,000 feet and provide drone-like services such as live-mapping and monitoring narcotics trafficking. The Solara series of drones will be able to fly continuously for nearly five years at a cruising speed of about 65 mph, charging its own battery high above commercial aircraft through the use of solar power. "We’re trying to do a single-million-dollar-per-aircraft platform," says Dustin Sanders, Titan’s chief electrical engineer. "And the operation cost is almost nothing — you’re paying some dude to watch the payload and make sure the aircraft doesn’t do anything stupid.” The Solara series are designed to be a fraction of the cost of a satellite, but operate many similar tasks, such as surveillance, crop-monitoring, weather and disaster oversight, or any other monitoring that low-altitude satellites track. The Solara 60 will carry up to 250 pounds of payload, anything from signals intelligence gear or electro-optical sensors to communications equipment. The plane, inspired in part by work done by Paul MacCready, builder of the various solar-powered Pathfinder aircraft, has been made possible by “a confluence of three” factors: lighter, more efficient solar technology; better composites; and improvements to battery weight and power. While these aircraft would clearly be vulnerable to enemy fire given their slow speed and lack of defense, the combination of high-altitude, long loiter time, and relatively low cost compared to satellites and warplanes offers the intelligence and military markets a good cost-capability tradeoff."
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Engineers Develop Drone That Can Fly Continuously For 5 Years

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