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The Military Transportation Science Technology

Zephyr Solar Plane Tops 7 Days Aloft 51

Posted by timothy
from the ok-but-jetfuel-for-me-yet dept.
chichilalescu writes "The UK-built Zephyr solar-powered plane has smashed the endurance record for an unmanned aerial vehicle. 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. Maybe we can attach some netbooks, and extend the Internet to the clouds."
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Zephyr Solar Plane Tops 7 Days Aloft

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  • odd asymmetry (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hooya (518216) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @04:05AM (#32935706) Homepage

    why is one wing shaped differently than the other, i wonder..

  • Re:cool, but.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Maddog Batty (112434) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @04:23AM (#32935744) Homepage

    El reg has made some interesting points on this: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/07/16/zephyr_7_days/ [theregister.co.uk]
    The site and time of year chosen is about the most ideal conditions possible. Any real application would require a payload which would need to be carried and more critically powered which means more solar panels. I would guess that they would already be maxed out on the solar panel area though...

  • Re:cool, but.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Xtense (1075847) <xtenseNO@SPAMo2.pl> on Saturday July 17, 2010 @04:31AM (#32935768) Homepage

    Remember these are just baby steps of solar powered flight. This in itself is quite an achievement, but there's still room for improvement. As solar panel technology gets better, so will the capabilities and usefulness of such projects in real life. However, i think just waiting for a better panel won't cut it - the rest can still be optimized, like internal circuitry, materials, the design and so on. That's why IMO it's important to keep making such prototypes. If (when?) we finally get better panels, we'll be all set with a proper aircraft architecture and, if we're lucky, it'll be able to sustain itself in every climate.

    That said, the military will probably never release the specs to the public, so meh ;) .

  • by ultranova (717540) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @04:48AM (#32935806)

    Yeah. We should attack routers for mesh routing, not netbooks.

    Seriously, with all the three-strike and censorship laws popping up lately like poisonous mushrooms after a rain, the future of the Internet lays in mesh routing: rather than connect to an ISP, your router sends the packet to neighbour's router, which sends it to the noughbouring building, and so on. And with the laws that try to make this illegal, such routing is best carried out by insectbots, which would have many other uses too (such as fighting locusts).

    This is not quite an insectbot yet, but still a step toward that direction. Perhaps a swarm of insectbots could be controlled by a larger "birdbot"?

  • Re:cool, but.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dbIII (701233) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @05:16AM (#32935864)
    One thing that many forget is that aircraft fly faster than storms so can always be somewhere else unless they have fuel limitations. Also I don't think any aircraft can handle a tornado so the high winds question is one of those "it's not perfect so we should never use it" senseless arguments.
  • Re:cool, but.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by houghi (78078) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @07:29AM (#32936212)

    I think it is more then logical that they would do it in the most ideal conditions possible. To me it is not even interesting. Remember that flight around the world in a balloon? Do you think they did not try to get the most ideal conditions?

    First you start to see what happens in the most ideal situation. Then you have some reference point for more realistic situations later on in the project.

  • by fantomas (94850) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @07:45AM (#32936268)

    Qinetiq is the commercial r+d arm of the UK military. They don't just build stuff for the fun of it.

    A) their funding requires them to be hunting down sales and profit and B) they are the commercial spin off of the military (one of their biggest clients) so they sure as heck didn't spend years putting PhD level researchers on developing a solar flying wing just because they thought it would be a cool thing to do. They'll be expecting to make a profit out of this and for starters they'll be offering the US military a preferential deal (once they've got their patents also nicely sorted to cover any competitors and given the UK military first shout on the best stuff).

  • by ultranova (717540) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @08:08AM (#32936350)

    Mesh routing is cool and all, but where do you connect your mesh to?

    To local public communication infrastructure, such as fiber-optic cables; however, it becomes impossible to cut any single person's access away, since said person's packets can be routed through multiple routes even at the very beginning.

    Compare this to the road network: while we have highways and such, individuals connect to the network through a mesh of small roads, and can in fact cross the whole country through them if necessary.

    Interconnecting the globe without any commercial or gouvermental entity involved is no easy task. Providing reasonable bandwidth across the ocean without using fiber is hard, if not almost impossible.

    Naturally. I'm simply arguing against the current system, where your access can be cut off by either a commercial entity or the government. The whole point is to move from identifiable endpoints to a system where the mesh, as a whole, is an endpoint.

    Communication is far too important to let either the RIAA, Comcast, or their paid representatives to mess with it.

  • by chichilalescu (1647065) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @08:24AM (#32936418) Homepage Journal

    I submitted the story, and I made the pun. I thought it was funny...
    and in principle I think in the future aircraft of this kind could perform some functions that are currently performed by satelites.
    anyway, I don't know a lot about this stuff, so maybe it was a bad joke, sorry.

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