Titan Aerospace operates out of New Mexico. This startup company recently unveiled prototypes for “atmospheric satellites”. These ‘un-manned drones’ are powered purely by solar energy and are expected to stay in the air for up to five years, flying at 60 – 90,000 feet with a thousand-pound payload.
The Solara 50 (their first long-endurance solar drone) is under construction now and is expected to take to the air next year. (with the Solara 60 soon to follow).
The Solara 50 has a 50 metre wingspan and its high-efficiency motor is powered by 3,000 photovoltaic cells generating seven kilowatts. It is launched by catapult and lands on its Kevlar-coated underside. The beauty of the idea is that it will be able to perform many of the tasks normally completed by satellites but at much lower costs.
The goal here is communication. A “constellation” of drones could fly over a region to create a communication network for disaster (see Google’s planned air-based broadband in areas with no telecommunications infrastructure of their own!).
If successful, Titan could free our dependence on low-orbit satellites and the energy and fuel required to get and keep them there. Through solar power, a drone can stay aloft indefinitely.
Posted by Alvaro