Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Transportation United Kingdom Science Technology

'Eternal' Solar Plane Stays Two Weeks Aloft 37

Posted by timothy
from the for-small-values-of-eternity dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The BBC has a story on the confirmation of the record breaking flight of Qinetiq's Zephyr UAV: 'The UK-built solar-powered Zephyr aeroplane has been confirmed as a record-breaker following its non-stop two-week flight earlier this year. The world governing body for air sports records, the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), gave Zephyr three records including longest time aloft. Built by defense technology company Qinetiq, the craft completed its two-week flight in the US in July. The company sees applications in surveillance and communications. The July feat led to Zephyr being dubbed the "eternal plane."' YouTube has some footage of the Zephyr in action."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

'Eternal' Solar Plane Stays Two Weeks Aloft

Comments Filter:
  • first Xmas post (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Merry Xmas, /.! XD

  • Now I have yet another excuse for why I never remove my sombrero.
  • Also see: Vulture (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CrazySailor (20688) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @07:25AM (#34665020) Homepage Journal

    While Qinetiq has managed two weeks, DARPA [darpa.mil] is working on a five-year lifespan for its vehicles through the VULTURE [darpa.mil] program.
    Additional specs: 450 kg payload, 5kW payload power and flight in the 60k ft region.

    • The LEMV is way more impressive - it must stay up for a minimum of 21 days and carry a minimum of 2500 lbs and generate at least 16 KW of power - the Zephyr is a nice technology demonstration but has a long way to go to be actually useful - and BTW the LEMV airship is also built by a British company

  • Record time aloft? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rossdee (243626)

    Not even close. What about "Five Weeks in a Balloon"?

    And there have been astronauts and cosmonauts on Mir and ISS for 6 months at a time...

    • by oodaloop (1229816) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @08:09AM (#34665108)
      I think there being air around you would be a requirement for "staying aloft." Staying in orbit isn't that hard.
    • by Urkki (668283) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @08:14AM (#34665112)

      Not even close. What about "Five Weeks in a Balloon"?

      And there have been astronauts and cosmonauts on Mir and ISS for 6 months at a time...

      I think they're referring to heavier-than-air atmospheric flying machines here. And if you were just trying to be funny, it didn't work...

      But if we accept any flying contraption, then the Moon has been flying for about 4 billion years already. Those clever Swiss, they sure know how to make cheese that works like a clockwork!

      • by Kozz (7764)

        Those clever Swiss, they sure know how to make cheese that works like a clockwork!

        And yet, ironically, I hear that too much Swiss Cheese will prevent a Swiss Movement.

    • by jspoon (585173) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @09:09AM (#34665232)
      This isn't even close to the manned aircraft record. In the 50s some nuts kept a Cessna 172 flying for more than 2 months. When the generator gave out they hoisted up a small wind generator, taped it to a struct, and ran the power in through the cigarette lighter. Now that's what I call a record!
      • by Urkki (668283) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @12:47PM (#34666096)

        This isn't even close to the manned aircraft record. In the 50s some nuts kept a Cessna 172 flying for more than 2 months. When the generator gave out they hoisted up a small wind generator, taped it to a struct, and ran the power in through the cigarette lighter. Now that's what I call a record!

        I was so sure you were just joking, but it's real [wikipedia.org], and honestly, compared to today's "hoist a camcorder up in a balloon or RC plane" stunts... Well, there's no comparison :-)

      • Wrong. It's not a record for UAV's only; it's a record for unrefuelled flight in a powered vehicle, no matter whether manned or not, and no matter whether heavier than air or lighter than air.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There's still one type of flying that hasn't been done yet. And I think it could go for some pretty big endurance records.

      I think it'd be neat to fly an aircraft at lower altitude, but have it take advantage of a kite (either a tractor or a gyro hooked to generator) on a tether up in the jetstream. If there's enough windshear across that altitude difference, you'd have a lot more power available than any solar flier.

      Yeah, the idea of a wind-powered aircraft sounds impossible. But a study back in the 1970's [dtic.mil]

  • The irony abounds, even if they could go longer.

  • Now let's not go overboard here. The basic laws of Physics indicate that any "solar powered plane" is going to be a very iffy thing. You can only get 150 watts per square meter of wing surface, that's when the sun is shining and at right angles to the sun. So you're talking about a very slow and very underpowered airplane, with like at best some pitiful and hazardous climb rate.

    No way it could ever be certificated for carrying humans.

    • No way it could ever be certificated for carrying humans.

      Oh, damn. You should tell that to the people working on the Solar Impulse [wikipedia.org].

      They'll be glad for all the work they wont have to do.

      Also, they can seek treatment for the mass hallucination of
      the 24h+ flight last July.

      We're still talking low power and relatively slow, and you are
      right that this will probably never be a way to power normal
      travel - but "it" (meaning a purely solar powered heavier-than-air
      aircraft) already has carried humans.

    • No one is talking about human certification - the article and the designers specifically mention it has been designed for small payloads, communications and science duties, not for passenger flight.

      Reading the article, or even the TFS where this is stated explicitly would be useful.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      On the other hand, a solar-assisted, solar-charged plane might be a really good idea, if these electric airplanes ever become viable. Batteries still suck.

  • I read the linked article and wondered why they stopped at 14 days. Still not certain, but it appears they made a decision to do so, instead of some malfunction or loss of elevation, according to their press release [qinetiq.com]:

    QinetiQ will today bring Zephyr, its solar powered high-altitude long endurance (HALE) Unmanned Air System (UAS) back to earth after two weeks in the air - smashing a number of long-standing official and unofficial world records.

    Zephyr was launched on 09 July and is currently still flying above the US Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. Today Zephyr will have been aloft for 14 nights continuously, achieving the objective of the trial and setting a number of performance and altitude records. At this point QinetiQ's Zephyr team in Yuma will bring the aircraft back to earth.

    Does anyone have further details? Were they just tired, met the design/test objectives, and wanted to process all of that? I'd think if it were "eternal", it could have just been left there flying and would still be up there today. My *guess* is that it may be unmanned, but not entirely auto

    • No its not entirely autonomous, all the pilots hold ATPL licences and are involved in flying other platforms. It met its design criteria and will fly again in the new year for longer. Type in Zephyr at http://www.suasnews.com/ [suasnews.com] and you will find a video of the take off and landing, sorry I can't seem to paste in a link here. I believe it had enough power left to fly for several weeks more.
  • The video is two weeks long!!!
  • by jklovanc (1603149)

    The plane did not have any of the following:
    1. A payload adding extra weight and extra energy to keep aloft.
    2. Sensors to gather data. These sensors would require power to run decreasing the amount of energy going into the battery.
    3. Transmitters to sends data to the ground. Same energy drain as above.

    With all that extra energy drain will the plane stay up over night.

    I also shake my head when I see that the test is done in Summer when the days are the longest and the nights are the shortest. This way one ha

  • Eternity ain't what it used to be.

EARTH smog | bricks AIR -- mud -- FIRE soda water | tequila WATER

Working...