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Old 07-16-2010, 05:41 PM   #1
BloodBane611
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Default Solar Powered UAV Flies 7 days straight

BBC - BBC News - Zephyr solar plane flies 7 days non-stop

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16 July 2010 Last updated at 09:40 ET

Zephyr solar plane flies 7 days non-stop
By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent, BBC News
Zephyr (Qinetiq) The latest Zephyr weighs 50kg and takes five people to launch it

The UK-built Zephyr solar-powered plane has smashed the endurance record for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The craft took off from the US Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona at 1440 BST (0640 local time) last Friday and is still in the air.

Its non-stop operation, day and night, means it has now gone five times longer than the official mark recognised by the world air sports federation.

The plane has been developed by the defence and research company Qinetiq.

End Quote Jon Saltmarsh Zephyr project manager

Its project manager, Jon Saltmarsh, said Zephyr would be brought down once it had flown non-stop for a fortnight.

"Zephyr is basically the first 'eternal aircraft'," he told BBC News.

The UAV has been under development for a number of years at Qinetiq.

Solar-powered high-altitude long-endurance (Hale) UAVs are expected to have a wide range of applications in the future.

The military will want to use them as reconnaissance and communications platforms. Civilian and scientific programmes will equip them with small payloads for Earth observation duties.

Their unique selling point is their persistence over a location. Low-Earth orbiting satellites come and go in a swift pass overhead, and the bigger drones now operated by the military still need to return to base at regular intervals for refuelling.

But as Zephyr has now proved, solar UAVs can be left in the sky.

Their solar cells drive propellers during the day and top up their batteries to maintain the craft through the dark hours of night. An autopilot keeps them circling over the same spot.

The latest version of Zephyr is now 50% bigger than its predecessors.

The updated vehicle has a wingspan of 22.5m, and features a new wingtip and tail design that dramatically improve aero performance.
Zephyr (Qinetiq) Zephyr is launched into the early morning Arizona sky

It also has a wider configuration near the main body to accommodate more equipment. In addition, the team has upgraded the avionics and power management systems on board.

"The launch was absolutely beautiful; it was just so smooth," said Mr Saltmarsh. "We had five people lift it above their heads, start running and it just lifted away into the sky."

The current official world endurance record for a UAV is 30 hours, 24 minutes. This was set by the US robot Global Hawk. Zephyr itself has already recorded an 83-hour continuous flight but representatives from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) were not present to witness proceedings.

However, they are at Yuma this time and so the latest flight will go down as an official world record provided the FAI is satisfied its rules have been followed.

"This is a huge milestone that puts us at the leading edge," Mr Saltmarsh told BBC News. "It's a practical system that can actually be used rather than simply a demonstration of small technical achievements."

The Zephyr flight is the second event of note this year in solar-powered aviation. Last month, Andre Borschberg became the first person to pilot a manned solar plane through the night.



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Old 07-16-2010, 05:48 PM   #2
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Default Re: Solar Powered UAV Flies 7 days straight

That is seriously cool. Never thought of the idea of solar powered UAVs myself.

Now how do we combine solar power with stealth technology?


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Old 07-16-2010, 05:48 PM   #3
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Default Re: Solar Powered UAV Flies 7 days straight

mmmmm, made by Qinetiq, over priced and years behind schedule. On a good note about time this kind of technology was put to good use but I bet the operator was a bit tired by the end of it...


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Old 07-16-2010, 06:39 PM   #4
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Default Re: Solar Powered UAV Flies 7 days straight

good news for Qinetiq


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Old 07-16-2010, 09:38 PM   #5
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Default Re: Solar Powered UAV Flies 7 days straight

For those who didn't bother reading, they're keeping it up for another 7 days in order to set a record of 2 weeks.



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Old 07-17-2010, 09:29 AM   #6
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Default Re: Solar Powered UAV Flies 7 days straight

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hitperson View Post
good news for Qinetiq
This is exciting news but I think it's a shame Qinetiq aren't paid to develop civillian technologies. It's a pretty big thing to have solar powered flight (in my mind).

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Old 07-17-2010, 10:03 AM   #7
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Default Re: Solar Powered UAV Flies 7 days straight

well civilian tech is all really about what's going to make money at the end of the day.


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Old 07-17-2010, 11:47 AM   #8
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Default Re: Solar Powered UAV Flies 7 days straight

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Originally Posted by ryan d ale View Post
This is exciting news but I think it's a shame Qinetiq aren't paid to develop civillian technologies. It's a pretty big thing to have solar powered flight (in my mind).
well it's only been a few years since they were floated on the stock market, before then they were just a government owned defence contractor


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Old 07-21-2010, 02:04 AM   #9
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Default Re: Solar Powered UAV Flies 7 days straight

Hopefully this will prove a more valid solution to intelligence than those infernal looking blimps the Army wants to deploy in Afghanistan.


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