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Zephyr Solar Plane Tops 7 Days Aloft

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the ok-but-jetfuel-for-me-yet dept.

The Military 51

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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Possible Applications (1)

dimethylxanthine (946092) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935694)

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.

If the military will let us/them [earthfirst.com] ...

odd asymmetry (1, Interesting)

Hooya (518216) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935706)

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

Re:odd asymmetry (1)

Fumus (1258966) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935716)

I'm rather sure that's just an illusion because of the angle at which the photos were taken.

Re:odd asymmetry (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 4 years ago | (#32936162)

Indeed, the next photo down, had the GP bothered to look, shows the wings quite symmetrical, taking in to account that it's shot at an angle. The other is harder to compensate for.

Re:odd asymmetry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32935718)

Magic

Re:odd asymmetry (1)

BradyB (52090) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935760)

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

You're right, there is a noticeable extra piece of wing on the right (looking from the rear)

Re:odd asymmetry (3, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935790)

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

You're right, there is a noticeable extra piece of wing on the right (looking from the rear)

The left wing appears to have an extension on the wing tip with negative dihedral: it points down. The guy on the right appears to be holding the tip extension, perhaps because they are assembling the aircraft.

Re:odd asymmetry (1)

Arterion (941661) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935794)

I would guess that the weight of the craft isn't evenly balanced, because of the asymmetrical nature of some of the electrical equipment or some such. Thus, it needs differently shaped wings to compensate, as mechanical or more traditional propulsion mechanisms aren't viable given its limited energy availability.

Re:odd asymmetry (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935826)

I would guess that the weight of the craft isn't evenly balanced, because of the asymmetrical nature of some of the electrical equipment or some such. Thus, it needs differently shaped wings to compensate, as mechanical or more traditional propulsion mechanisms aren't viable given its limited energy availability.

The second picture in the article gives a more symmetrical view.

Re:odd asymmetry (1)

AikonMGB (1013995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935838)

Take another look at the two pictures in the article; looks pretty symmetrical to me. Both wingtips are raked, and also point down with negative dihedral.

Aikon-

Re:odd asymmetry (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935852)

Are they pitching it as a Nascar chase plane?

Re:odd asymmetry (1)

sugar and acid (88555) | more than 4 years ago | (#32936160)

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

This plane is meant to fly a circular path around an area indefinately.

Maybe the differential drag of the wings will make it fly a circular path naturally, and produce less drag overall than constantly moving the rudder or Ailerons to make a straight flying plane turn. Less drag means less energy required to keep it flying.

Re:odd asymmetry (1)

dhammond (953711) | more than 4 years ago | (#32937440)

It does appear to be somewhat asymmetrical, unless there's some kind of optical illusion going on (hi-res image available here: http://www.qinetiq.com/home/newsroom/news_releases_homepage/2010/3rd_quarter/zephyr_2010.Par.22482.File.tmp/Zephyr%202010%20launch.JPG [qinetiq.com] )

My guess: it appears to be made primary to hover over a particular area, so it spends a lot of its time circling, which could possibly be made more efficient with asymmetry.

cool, but.. (1)

slashmojo (818930) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935728)

Interesting and quite an achievement but how useful is it in 'real life' (ie. military use) when weather conditions may not be so ideal as they presumably are in arizona? Can it handle high winds and storms or will it fall apart?

Also wont it present a fetching target for those 'unfriendlies' the military would be watching or does it fly too high?

Re:cool, but.. (2, Interesting)

Maddog Batty (112434) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935744)

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.. (1)

ignavus (213578) | more than 4 years ago | (#32936088)

You know, the Wright brothers airplane wasn't exactly a jumbo jet either...

Just saying.

And I hope you are not downloading music onto wax cylinders - they have made some improvements in the storage of music since Edison. It was a good first try, though.

Re:cool, but.. (2, Interesting)

houghi (78078) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:cool, but.. (4, Interesting)

Xtense (1075847) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935768)

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 ;) .

Re:cool, but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32935966)

Agreed. Just think about the history and advancement of computer technology - it pretty much happened this way - via prototypes. The prototypes basically represent a collection of what can be done with the accumulation of all the current technologies that it is comprised of. Doing so even helps to speed up the advancement the technologies within by providing incentive and motivation for investors and developers.

Re:cool, but.. (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 3 years ago | (#32939524)

Except of course that computer science is nowhere near it's theoretical limits (or at least it can improve a few hundred times yet before it hits those limits and we can always switch to smaller particles to store information). For this craft ...

Solar panels : 40% efficient (at least) (and let's not forget theoretical limits are not much above 60%)
Electrical motors : 97% efficient (and that's what's easily found your local modeling shop, presumably they have better ones)
Aerodynamics : now studied for about 2500 years (at least)
Batteries : half as efficient as fuel (the only area where real improvement is possible)

That means that the plance can scarcely be improved. A 2x improvement would stretch the laws of physics. A 3x improvement is not in the cards because it's theoretically impossible. Weight loss is just about the only avenue of optimization, and presumably they used very, very good materials already.

Add to that that this craft is not exactly capable of sustained flight anywhere remotely approaching a northern location. And let's not discuss any location north of the pole circles (where still 1/4th of the earth's landmass is located, including quite a few countries), because that's just ridiculous : the craft would need to improve efficiency several hundred times to stay aloft there. From the article :

Yuma Proving Ground lies in the Sonoran Desert just 32 degrees north of the Equator, and the northern-hemisphere summer solstice is only just past. The sun is tracking as nearly dead overhead as it ever does over US territory just now, meaning that the Zephyr is getting far more energy from its cells than it would farther north or at other times of year.

So this will *not* advance like computer technology. Not at all. Unfortunately.

Physical limitations (3, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#32936352)

As solar panel technology gets better, so will the capabilities and usefulness of such projects in real life

The problem is that you are limited by the amount of sunlight that reaches the earth. Even with solar panel efficiency at 100% you would only have about one kilowatt/square meter.

Re:Physical limitations (2, Insightful)

Alastor187 (593341) | more than 4 years ago | (#32937720)

There is certainly a limit to how much solar power can be collected. However, 1 kW/m^2 is a substantial amount of power, if we could get there. Take for example the high power electronics suites in UAVs. These electroncis require large amounts of power and therefore must be cooled accordingly. Now when the aircraft is running on the ground a unique cooling problem exists because only partial cooling capacity is available. This is further complicated by solar thermal loading on the ground which can exceed 1 kW/m^2. In some cases the solar loading can approach the nominal electronics power dissipation, which could drive the need for almost twice the cooling capacity. The point being that solar radiation is a significant problem at UAV power scales. There would significant opportunity if we could harness a 100% of that energy.

Re:cool, but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32935782)

It depends. If you can cruise at 50,000-80,000ft you would be above most of the weather, except for the very worst storms.

Re:cool, but.. (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935822)

> Also wont it present a fetching target for those 'unfriendlies' the military would be watching or does it fly too high?

If it's cheap, who cares? Low and fast will be ok.

Now lets get out to Afghanistan and kill some kids! Whoop! Alright!

Re:cool, but.. (2, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32936468)

They had to drop their altitude for 48hrs because of strong winds.

Not necessarily for military use (1)

ChePibe (882378) | more than 4 years ago | (#32937452)

Loitering aircraft like this can have a lot of uses. A close cousin of my wife did a great deal of his graduate work on the use of unmanned aircraft for the purpose of fire spotting. The idea was to keep a small fleet of cheap, low maintenance, long-life aircraft over areas that experienced frequent forest fires in the summer months. The quicker you spot the blaze, the easier it is to fix, and a few cheap UAVs outfitted with sensors (the version they were working on actually didn't require any human interaction) is a lot cheaper and potentially more effective than manning ranger stations.

Re:cool, but.. (1)

Hairy1 (180056) | more than 4 years ago | (#32941598)

Once an aircraft like this gets to operating altitude there is little weather it needs to deal with. There is more or less constant sunshine during the day. We are talking about 60,000 feet.

For monitoring a large area it is ideal. The payload that it will need to carry should be minimal. Note that last week there was a 24 hr solar powered flight with a human pilot. That is a fair bit of weight; way more weight than some cameras needed to simply observe.

If it were used in military context it would be far less vulnerable than a Predator, with no significant heat signature, and depending on construction not much of a radar signature either. The main differences will be a lack of payload capability for weapons and the additional capability of running for long periods on station.

Put enough of these up and you have instant mesh network capable of surveillance over vast areas for long periods. It is very cool technology. They are comparatively cheap, and capable of aiding fire control in real time.

What's with the dumb summary? (2, Insightful)

dadioflex (854298) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935766)

"Maybe we can attach some netbooks, and extend the internet to the clouds."

Really? That's the best way to summarise record-breaking solar flight? A stupid, and basically illogical, pun?

Re:What's with the dumb summary? (1, Interesting)

ultranova (717540) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:What's with the dumb summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32936004)

Except for the whole "Infrastructure routes at O(lg n) and mesh routes at O(n^0.5)" thing, which means that mesh routing will never work without fixed, expensive backhaul. It's a beautiful techno-anarchist fantasy we'd all like to share, but the reality is that networking will never scale without substantial infrastructure investment, and that means someone's gotta get paid.

Re:What's with the dumb summary? (1)

PseudonymousBraveguy (1857734) | more than 4 years ago | (#32936272)

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

Re:What's with the dumb summary? (3, Interesting)

ultranova (717540) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:What's with the dumb summary? (1)

PseudonymousBraveguy (1857734) | more than 4 years ago | (#32936412)

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.

In your scenario, the gouverment/commercial entity is evil enough to cut peoples network access. Thus, you have to assume that in doubt, they would simply cut the access at each endpoint where "infringing" traffic enters the public network, effectively cutting the whole mesh from the net.

I've seen people fined for copyright infraction for operating an open WiFi router (which is basically a "one-hop mesh"), when they could prove they have been on vacation during the time of the infringement.

Re:What's with the dumb summary? (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 4 years ago | (#32936646)

In your scenario, the gouverment/commercial entity is evil enough to cut peoples network access. Thus, you have to assume that in doubt, they would simply cut the access at each endpoint where "infringing" traffic enters the public network, effectively cutting the whole mesh from the net.

A government that cuts a whole city off the Net is not going to be a government for very long. Also, please understand that even if they do, the city is still connected to the larger Internet through the suburbs extending from it to other nearby cities - just like you would be connected to the road network, even if every highway within a thousand miles of your home would be closed. The connection would just become slower.

That's kind of the point of this system: to make the Internet a kind of global mesh where high-speed connections simply make things faster, but aren't strictly required to make things work, and attempts to cut any particular person from the Net causes as much collateral damage as possible, hopefully acting as a deterrent.

I've seen people fined for copyright infraction for operating an open WiFi router (which is basically a "one-hop mesh"), when they could prove they have been on vacation during the time of the infringement.

Yes, because adding any "meshiness" to the Net makes it harder to control, which is why powers that be want to discourage such behaviour. That's yet more evidence that such a system needs to be implemented ASAP.

The Internet itself happened by accident: nobody paid attention to it until it had already reached critical mass, which is why it's as open as it is. If we let it be controlled by political and financial interests, we might not get another chance.

Re:What's with the dumb summary? (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935968)

both can crash?

Re:What's with the dumb summary? (2, Funny)

lemur3 (997863) | more than 4 years ago | (#32936238)

"Maybe we can attach some netbooks, and extend the internet to the clouds."

Really? That's the best way to summarise record-breaking solar flight? A stupid, and basically illogical, pun?

timothy puts the PUN in Punishment

Re:What's with the dumb summary? (4, Interesting)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 4 years ago | (#32936418)

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.

Re:What's with the dumb summary? (1)

archmcd (1789532) | more than 4 years ago | (#32936478)

Amazon [amazon.com] has already done this. I think it was a silly move, since most of us are down here on earth.

Don't go too long (2, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935796)

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.

They had better hurry up and end the light otherwise the FAI guy might give up and go home.

Re:Don't go too long (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935848)

Sounds perfect for commercial passenger flight. After holding people hostage in the air for a week, being hold up on the ground for another day won't seem as bad.

How I Learned to Start Thinking and Hate the Jews (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32935896)

There are two types of people in the world: people who think there are two types of people in the world and people who don’t. I’m among the first type and I think the world is divided into people who recognize the Jewish problem and people who don’t.

In other words, the world is divided into smart people and dumb people. If you’ve got an IQ of 80, have difficulty operating a can-opener, and recognize the Jewish problem, you’re smart. If you’ve got an IQ of 180, have already won a couple of Nobel Prizes, and don’t recognize the Jewish problem, you’re dumb.

I’ve been dumb for most of my life: it took me a long time to recognize the Jewish problem. I didn’t think for myself, I just accepted the propaganda and conformed to the consensus. Jews are good people. Only bad people criticize Jews. Jews good. Anti-Semites bad. But then, very slowly, I started to see the light.

Recognizing Jewish hypocrisy was the first big step. I was reading an article by someone called Rabbi Julia Neuberger, a prominent British liberal. I didn’t like liberals then, so I didn’t like her for that (and because her voice and manner had always grated on me), but her Jewishness wasn’t something I particularly noticed. But as I read the article I came across something that didn’t strike me as very liberal: she expressed concern about Jews marrying Gentiles, because this threatened the survival of the Jewish people.

That made me sit up and think. Hold on, I thought, I know this woman sits on all sorts of “multi-cultural” committees and is constantly being invited onto TV and radio to yap about the joys of diversity and the evils of racism. She’s all in favor of mass immigration and there’s no way she’s worried about Whites marrying non-Whites, because “Race is Just a Social Construct” and “We’re All the Same Under the Skin”. She’s a liberal and she thinks that race-mixing is good and healthy and Holy. Yet this same woman is worried about Jews marrying Gentiles. Small contradiction there, n'est ce-pas?

Well, no. Big contradiction. She obviously didn’t apply the same rules to everyone else as she applied to her own people, the Jews. She was, in short, a hypocrite. But not just that – she was a Jewish hypocrite. And that’s a big step for a brainwashed White to take: not just thinking in a negative way about a Jew, but thinking in a negative way about a Jew because of her Jewishness.

After that, I slowly started to see the world in a different way. Or to be more precise: I started to see the world. I started to see what had always been there: the massive over-representation of Jews in politics and the media. And I started to notice that a lot of those Jews – like Rabbi Julia Neuberger, in fact – gave me the creeps. There was something slimy and oily and flesh-crawling about them. And it wasn’t just me, either: other Gentiles seemed to feel it too.

Politicians often attract nicknames based on some outstanding aspect of their character or behavior. Margaret Thatcher was “The Iron Lady”. Ronald Reagan was “Teflon Ron”. Bill Clinton was “Slick Willy”. But these are Gentile politicians and their nicknames are at least half-affectionate. Jewish politicians seem to attract a different kind of nickname. In Britain, Gerald Kaufman, bald, homosexual Member of Parliament for Manchester Gorton, is nicknamed “Hannibal Lecter”. Peter Mandelson, now Britain’s Euro-Commissioner and Tony Blair’s suspected former lover, is “The Prince of Darkness”. Michael Howard (né Hecht), the leader of the British Conservative Party, is “Dracula”.

When I noticed this kind of thing, I started to ask questions. What was going on here? Why did Jews attract nicknames like that? And why had Gentiles reacted to them like that not just now, but a long way into the past? Shakespeare seems to have felt the same kind of repulsion when he created the vengeful lawyer Shylock, and Dickens when he created the parasitic master-thief Fagin. Classic “anti-Semitic” stereotypes, but I knew that stereotypes aren’t always wrong. If anti-Semitic stereotypes aren’t always wrong, then there’s an obvious conclusion: neither is anti-Semitism. Gentiles are sometimes right to dislike and distrust Jews.

After all, at the same time I was noticing something else: the massive over-representation of Jews, not just among politicians and journalists, but among crooked businessmen too. In fact, among very, very crooked businessmen, the ones responsible for really big frauds at Gentile expense. Men like Robert Maxwell (né Hoch), Ivan “Greed is Good” Boesky, and Michael Milken. And, on a slightly lesser scale, Ernest Saunders, who finagled an early release from prison because he was coming down with Alzheimer’s, that well-known incurable brain disease from which no-one ever recovers. Only Saunders managed to confound medical science and recover from it.

Slimy. Hypocritical. Crooked. In a word: Jewish. But I didn’t take the final step, the step to full recognition of the Jewish problem, until I watched the reaction to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. I’m not a Christian and I have little sympathy with modern Christianity, but I had a lot of sympathy for Mel Gibson as I watched the hysterical campaign against him. The hysterical, well-organized, international campaign by the slimy, hypocritical, crooked Jew Abe Foxman, Head of the Anti-Defamation League, and his fellow slimy, hypocritical, crooked Jews around the world. They didn’t like something and they were moving heaven and earth to get it stopped.

And what was it they didn’t like? A movie about an event at the heart of European art, literature, and culture: the crucifixion of Christ. So here was another obvious conclusion: Jews hate European art, literature, and culture. In other words, Jews hate White civilization and the White race who created it.

After that, it all fell into place. I finally recognized that Jews weren’t just slimy, hypocritical, and crooked, but actively dangerous too. If I thought of something harmful to White civilization and the survival of the White race – mass immigration, feminism, multi-culturalism, anti-racism, gay rights – I realized that Jews were behind it, were promoting it through their control of the media, and had been doing so for decades.

Finally, I had seen the light. Finally, I had gotten smart and recognized the Jewish problem, the problem that even dumb Gentiles subconsciously recognize when they give nicknames like “Hannibal Lecter” and “Prince of Darkness” and “Dracula” to Jewish politicians. Jews really do want to eat us, and steal our souls, and suck our blood, and it’s about time we started firing a few silver bullets.

ImodO up (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32935990)

of user base for Sling, return it to between each BSD that FreeBSD is anything can volume of NetBSD

SEO Sydney (0, Offtopic)

seodesign22 (1810448) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935998)

Today petroleum resources are going to be end,that's why making of a plane which is solar powered. From: SEO Sydney [seocompanysydney.com.au] Company.

The applications! (2, Informative)

arielCo (995647) | more than 4 years ago | (#32936214)

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.

Which makes for a decent observation plane, mostly for disaster-area surveillance (dunno military apps, though). QinetiQ seems to agree:

Potential applications for Zephyr include earth observation and communications relay.

I remember reading on ./ that the Nasa Pathfinder [wikipedia.org] concept is comparable to a very-low-orbit satellite for practical purposes, even advancing the possibilities in Martian exploration.

QinetiQ is commercialised UK military (2, Interesting)

fantomas (94850) | more than 4 years ago | (#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).

All we need is energy weaponry... (1)

CoryG (1848484) | more than 4 years ago | (#32936886)

and we can sleep soundly knowing that even if we all blast ourselves back to the stone-age, our enemy's cave-man descendants won't have it easy.

Cue the "cloud computing" jokes in (0, Offtopic)

sconeu (64226) | more than 4 years ago | (#32937028)

5... 4... 3... 2... 1...

Aerial traffic router (1)

aaron108 (1726460) | more than 3 years ago | (#32939680)

What if a plane like this could be used for routing internet or cell phone traffic?

Break the monopolies (1)

bradbury (33372) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942476)

Because these planes can stay up indefinitely and can fly over specific locations they offer an interesting way to "break" the monopolies posed by the Telephone and Cable companies over most of U.S. and presumably much of the rest of the world. The major problem with satellites is the ground-to-satellite distances and the delays that imposes on "real-world" applications such as telephone conversations or internet access. Low altitude (13-18km [42,000-60,000] ft) is above that at which most jet airplanes fly. Yet one could position planes such as this slightly to the north of most major metropolitan regions and use them effectively as relay towers which would require less infrastructure than standard "cell" phone towers without the delays associated with standard geosynchronous satellites. The planes could be flown continuously out of "regional" airports which have high bandwidth connections to the Internet backbone and provide the high bandwidth up/down-link services to the plane-towers. Interestingly because the plane-towers could be positioned north of most cities one could have mini-dish/phased-array antennas attached to homes, cars, etc. to provide the connection capabilities using the same frequencies currently used for satellite communications (where the dishes face south) [1].

It looks to me like this is an opportunity waiting to be implemented. The cost of the planes is likely to decrease as more nano-technologies become available (e.g. nanotube based wings, lightweight high efficiency solar cells) and electronics advances make routers smaller and more efficient). A JV between Google & Cisco could bring down the monopolies and make the Internet World cheaper for all of us.

1. I'm obviously talking about the northern hemisphere here.

So? Heinlein wrote about that in the Fourties. (1)

LandGator (625199) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942496)

Heinlein wrote about stratospheric relay aircraft even before Clarke wrote about geosync relay sats.
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  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>