Aug 25, 2008 | 2
The Pentagon's hope of having a squadron of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) capable of staying in the air and performing surveillance for years rather than hours recently took a small step forward. Working with U.K.-based idea factory QinetiQ Group PLC, researchers from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) managed to keep the solar-powered Zephyr high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft in the air over the Arizona desert for 82 hours 37 minutes, beating the 54-hour flight completed last year by an earlier version of the aircraft, the company reports on its Web site.
Launched by hand, the 66-pound (30-kilogram) Zephyr is an ultra-lightweight carbon-fiber aircraft that during the day flies on solar power generated by silicon solar arrays no thicker than sheets of paper that cover the aircraft's wings. At night it's powered by SION Power Inc.'s rechargeable lithium-sulfur batteries (recharged during the day using solar power), according to the company.
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