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NASA Flies First Laser-powered Aircraft

michael posted about 11 years ago | from the scientists-do-it-with-lasers dept.

Space 283

unassimilatible writes "NASA has successfully tested a small-scale aircraft that flies solely by means of propulsive power delivered by an invisible, ground-based laser. How far away can in-flight IP/LASER broadband be?"

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283 comments

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Laser (3, Funny)

Colbens (238305) | about 11 years ago | (#7181969)

How far off can space death rays be is the real question

Re:Laser (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182237)

Death rays, th, you humans are so backwards, wake me up when you've finally got a stellar converter working... kgh, death rays...
--
Why oh why did the Psilon master send me to this friggin rock?

Re:Laser (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182252)

Just for moment I thought it said "NASA fries first laser-powered aircraft"

Re:Laser & Clouds? (1)

FileNotFound (85933) | about 11 years ago | (#7182358)

So what happens if it's cloudy and the water particles cause the laser to difuse?

Does the plane crash?

why do all the posts under this one suck? (-1)

Sexual Asspussy (453406) | about 11 years ago | (#7181972)

REPENT, O SLASHBOTS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182152)

"Money is the barometer of a society's virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion - when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing - when you see that money is flowing to those that deal, not in goods, but in favors - when you see that men get richer by graft and pull tan by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you - when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming self-sacrifice - you may know that your society is doomed."

-- Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

Ummm... (0)

swordboy (472941) | about 11 years ago | (#7181976)

Is there anyone else out there who is picturing the land shark as the pilot?

Zap? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7181982)

I thought they were talking about that 747 with the laser cannon on it... Too bad.

In Soviet Russia (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7181984)

Laser aircrafts power YOU!

Imported product (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182085)

Actually, this laser-powered aircraft is already an imported Russian product, as opposed to the usual aircraft-powered laser.

Friggin' sharks? (1, Funny)

AtariAmarok (451306) | about 11 years ago | (#7181985)

Is this ship piloted by friggin' sharks with friggin' lasers on their heads?

Re:Friggin' sharks? (0, Funny)

Walterk (124748) | about 11 years ago | (#7182038)

Sorry, but sharks are a protected species now. It was powered by ill tempered mutated sea bass with friggin' lasers on their heads.

Re:Friggin' sharks? (1)

orthogonal (588627) | about 11 years ago | (#7182087)

Sorry, but sharks are a protected species now. It was powered by ill tempered mutated sea bass with friggin' lasers on their heads.

Excuse me, but sea bass are an endangered species now [worldwildlife.org] .

Insensitive clod.

Re:Friggin' sharks? (0)

Walterk (124748) | about 11 years ago | (#7182175)

Chilean Sea Bass, Whales [worldcounc...halers.com] , Seahorses Need International Protection from CITES
Nothing about mutated sea [activeangler.com] bass [superfresh.co.uk] .

Wrong sig ! (1)

selderrr (523988) | about 11 years ago | (#7182069)

Guiness: if you can't spell it, you've drank enough already

hoping u read this before it goes to -1(offtopic) : your sig is blatantly wrong and should read :

Guiness: if you can spell it, you haven't drank enough yet

Re:Wrong sig ! (1)

KDan (90353) | about 11 years ago | (#7182116)

Or even better:

Guiness: If you can spell it, you haven't drunk enough yet

Daniel

Re:Wrong sig ! (1)

68K (234318) | about 11 years ago | (#7182204)

You do all realise that you've spelt it wrong, right? If you did it on purpose, then you're all too drunk to be correcting each other. :-)

Re:Wrong sig ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182210)

Gines: I drak it.

sounds fun (0)

Dead_Medic (662827) | about 11 years ago | (#7182000)

While it sounds like a fun idea, how big would the laser have to be to power a full size airplane? And why dont they put solar panels on top of the plane to take advantage of the sun. I however see how this could have application in space travel and satelite technology.

We did this in Canada 15 years ago... (5, Informative)

Recoil_42 (665710) | about 11 years ago | (#7182002)

or something like it:

It used microwaves [friendsofcrc.ca] instead of "invisible lasers" (IR? i havent RTFA yet) but same end result, no?

Re:We did this in Canada 15 years ago... (2)

mblase (200735) | about 11 years ago | (#7182048)

It used microwaves instead of "invisible lasers"

Thanks for clearing that up; I was worried what would happen if they tried flying these things through a cloud bank. (Isn't a microwave laser more succinctly known as a maser?)

Re:We did this in Canada 15 years ago... (1)

KDan (90353) | about 11 years ago | (#7182138)

Isn't a microwave laser more succinctly known as a maser?

Yes [216.239.59.104] .

Daniel

We did this in the US almost 50 years ago... (1)

rhiorg (213355) | about 11 years ago | (#7182122)

...but we used liquid fuel.

And the Russians did it even before that.

Dr Evil (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182005)

Fire the "LASERS".

Frickin sharks with fricken lasers - should be more off it.

Re:Dr Evil (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182168)

And we can hold the world to Ransom for...

A Million Dollars!!!

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha !!!!

Life Imitating Art? (4, Interesting)

rit (64731) | about 11 years ago | (#7182006)

One of the hallmarks of classic science fiction, Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelles' "The Mote In Gods Eye" [amazon.com] , proposes this very thing. The opening sections of the book are based upon on premise: lacking true FTL travel, an alien race reaches a human colony by building humungous lasers in their asteroid belt and planet surface, and using them to propel a light sail armed interstellar craft between stars. Good book all around, and it's cool to see decent Science Fiction become more than just speculative drivel (it's one of my favourite books).

Re:Life Imitating Art? (2, Interesting)

Dyolf Knip (165446) | about 11 years ago | (#7182088)

No, that's a laser-augmented solar sail. Operating something like this in an atmosphere and a gravity well is a different animal entirely.

Re:Life Imitating Art? (4, Informative)

orthogonal (588627) | about 11 years ago | (#7182151)

building humungous lasers in their asteroid belt and planet surface, and using them to propel a light sail armed interstellar craft between stars.

IANAP (I am not a physicist), but isn't using light pressure in a vacuum to drive a light sail entirely different from an aircraft with "specially designed photovoltaic cells carried onboard to power the plane's propeller"?

It's like (poor analogy alert) saying that a gasoline powered car and a squeeze-jet that squirts out liquid gasoline to propel itself through the water are using "the same" propulsive technology.

BTW, light sails were proposed by real physicists long before Niven and Pournelle wrote the excellent Mote in God's Eye.

Re:Life Imitating Art? (1)

JAZ (13084) | about 11 years ago | (#7182294)

Egdar Rice Burrows powered aircraft with the 8th Barsoomian Ray in the John Carter of Mars series.

Basically the craft had a tank filled with light that propelled the vehicle around. ...And Tars Tarkas kicks ass too. =]

Or yes even more appriopiate, COM lasers! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182363)

Patent this stuff Niven! Geez...

Re:Life Imitating Art? (1)

mblase (200735) | about 11 years ago | (#7182386)

One of the hallmarks of classic science fiction

Not "hallmark", "landmark".

Laser powered.. (1)

adeyadey (678765) | about 11 years ago | (#7182008)

Solar sails in space next?

Re:Laser powered.. (1)

goranb (209371) | about 11 years ago | (#7182044)

No... Solar sails use (or intend to use) a different principle...
Here you use electricity to power a laser, which you point at solar cells (kinda) and generate electricity to power the electromotor on the airplane...
Ever thought of RTFA? :)

Re:Laser powered.. (2, Insightful)

adeyadey (678765) | about 11 years ago | (#7182149)

Now, did I say they used the same principle? Thanks, I did RTFA. :-)

Laser driven Space Sails (ok not solar in this case, but light-driven, although they would prob use solar as well) use the momentum of the photons to push the craft forward - but you still need a damn powerful laser to do it effectively..

Laser driven space sails are one of the few feasable technologies we really have that could be used for sending probes interstellar distances in a viable time-scale.

The 2 concepts have the same sort of principle idea - if you dont have to carry fuel, a craft can keep aloft/accelerating for very long periods of time..

Re:Laser powered.. (1)

goranb (209371) | about 11 years ago | (#7182238)

Ok, ok... I appologize... :D
Actually, when you come to think of it... Both actually use the energy in photons to achieve the desired effect... Whether it's forcing electrons to "flow" or causing the sail to move... Didn't think of it this way before...
Thanks? ;)

Does a laser "generator" (so the laser device itself) feel the reaction force of the photons?
Let me explain. I guess we all know the cartoons where you have a small sail boat and a fan tied at the back, which blows in the direction of the sail.
We also know that that's impossible, because the fan gets an equal reaction force in the opposite direction of the "wind" blowing. And as such the boat wont move (at least not because of the fan)...
Is this the same with a laser/photons? Will the photons leaving a laser cause a force on the laser device opposite of the direction of the photons moving?

Space Elevator (5, Insightful)

cflorio (604840) | about 11 years ago | (#7182010)

This is the technology they want to use to power the space elevator.

Why can't they do this with power? (3, Interesting)

LorneReams (597769) | about 11 years ago | (#7182014)

If they are using laser beams to power a generator in the plane, why don't they use this to solve our energy distribution problem? In blackouts, just beam power to cities by laser.

Re:Why can't they do this with power? (1)

cflorio (604840) | about 11 years ago | (#7182084)

Beaming enough power to fly a plane is one thing. Beaming enough to power an entire city is something else.

Re:Why can't they do this with power? (1)

nacturation (646836) | about 11 years ago | (#7182257)

If they are using laser beams to power a generator in the plane, why don't they use this to solve our energy distribution problem? In blackouts, just beam power to cities by laser.

Got any spare gigawatt lasers lying around that you're not using to etch your name into the moon's surface? That's one hell of a power requirement!

Re:Why can't they do this with power? (1)

dolo666 (195584) | about 11 years ago | (#7182304)

The cost alone would be prohibitive to use this in municipal power stations. For now.

Re:Why can't they do this with power? (1)

ThosLives (686517) | about 11 years ago | (#7182384)

I don't even think they can beam power to large (i.e. passenger) aircraft with any nominal success. I encourage you to look at the power output of large jet aircraft - enough power to power a good chunk of a city. (The 777 has 98000 lbf thrust and can go approx 557 MPH at 35,000 ft. This equates to about 108 megawatts - assuming the engines are going full bore at that speed - yeah I know the thrust is probably static thrust at sea level, so it might not be anywhere near 100 MW at altitude, but it's probably still on the order of 10s of megawatts). I don't know about you, but I don't think we have 100+ MW lasers that we can be firing around at aircraft - even if we did, throwing 100 MW at the area of an aircraft would pretty much melt just about every good engineering material of which I can think.

This is a neat idea, but I don't think it will ever replace fuel-laden aircraft for transportation or cargo. I think the article was right in that it metioned unmanned, lightweight drones flying slowly over a city.

UAH (-1, Offtopic)

ebh (116526) | about 11 years ago | (#7182019)

You'd think that if UAH could power a plane with a laser, they could figure out how to BUILD BIGGER FREAKIN' DORM ROOMS!

obquote (0)

eclectus (209883) | about 11 years ago | (#7182020)

was the laser used to heat up the popcorn that provided the real propulsion?

old news (1)

peterdguru (620217) | about 11 years ago | (#7182028)

The National Research council did this in Canada many years ago using microwaves. You've seen one EM powered plan..you've seen them all.

Re:old news (0)

Creedo Kid (518684) | about 11 years ago | (#7182266)

The National Research council did this in Canada many years ago using microwaves. You've seen one EM powered plan..you've seen them all. Except for coking birds in flight.... Ours just blonds them and they come crashing to the ground

Re:old news (1)

ACorvus (202386) | about 11 years ago | (#7182336)

Blonds them?

I can see it now - bottle blonde birds raining from the skies. Aren't there enough of them already?

How far away can in-flight IP/LASER broadband be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182031)

Oh, yeah. Just what we need, high powered lasers slicing up the skies above us. I can't wait.

Hmm... (2, Insightful)

MaestroSartori (146297) | about 11 years ago | (#7182035)

How far away can in-flight IP/LASER broadband be?
I dunno, about as far away as in-car IP/gasoline broadband is? The craft in question is powered by laser, not using it to communicate with anything!

I know, what a nutty idea... (1)

unassimilatible (225662) | about 11 years ago | (#7182054)

Next people will be talking nonsense about IP over power lines!

Re:Hmm... (1)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | about 11 years ago | (#7182196)

But, practical applications for this type of tech could be not-far-off. From the article: "The aircraft could be used for everything from relaying cell phone calls to cable television or Internet connections."

There have already been companies looking at using always-in-flight planes to provide cost-effective broadband service to areas not currently served. This technique is already being explored Raytheon Angel [angelhalo.com] .

Using lasers to power the aircraft could make this alot more practical!

Tubboy flies first diahreah powered goatse link! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182042)

I wonder... (-1, Redundant)

ILoveMyGeeky1 (699004) | about 11 years ago | (#7182049)

what would happen if there were more than one craft and the beams crossed? Or what if a building got in the way of a beam, or even another craft got in it's way? And, are these invisible laser beams going to be the next thing that everyone says will cause cancer?

Don't cross the beams! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182074)

Anyone who watched Gostbusters knows what happens when you cross the beams!

Re:Don't cross the beams! (1, Funny)

Esion Modnar (632431) | about 11 years ago | (#7182154)

Dr. Egon Spengler: There's something very important I forgot to tell you.
Dr. Peter Venkman: What?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Don't cross the streams.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Why?
Dr. Egon Spengler: It would be bad.
Dr. Peter Venkman: I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean "bad"?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
Dr. Raymond Stantz: Total protonic reversal.
Dr. Peter Venkman: That's bad. Okay. Alright, important safety tip, thanks Egon.

Been done before (1)

walt15 (154554) | about 11 years ago | (#7182051)

Nasa has been experimenting with lasers [slashdot.org] for awhile now for flight.
http://science.nasa.gov/newhome/headlines /prop16ap r99_1.htm

correct link (1)

walt15 (154554) | about 11 years ago | (#7182118)

/. is shoving a space between the p and r in the page url for some reason. Just ignore it.

How long can it go (1)

dicepackage (526497) | about 11 years ago | (#7182058)

97 Miles, 98 miles, 99 miles, 100 miles (plane falls to the ground), 99 Miles.

Ok, NASA just one question... how... (1)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | about 11 years ago | (#7182073)

do you fly above clouds...

:-)

I live in England :-)

Re:Ok, NASA just one question... how... (1)

PSaltyDS (467134) | about 11 years ago | (#7182233)

That's not the intention at all, at least for now. They are just demonstrating a technology and debugging it. Usefull applications are just speculation at this point, and don't have to involve that kind of altitude. For example, instead of erecting an atenna or camera tower, one could put them in orbit around an equipent truck at just a hundred feet altitude. How well this compares with just hanging the stuff from a tethered balloon, I'm not sure.

Any technology distinguishable from magic is not sufficiently advanced

Re:Ok, NASA just one question... how... (1)

valisk (622262) | about 11 years ago | (#7182341)

Well... At least over at Claude Bernard, Lyon 1 University in France, they have demonstrated a data carrier laser system which can penetrate clouds and fog. I imagine som ecomercial application of that would be useful here.

Not a laser.. (-1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182080)

When was the last time you saw an invisible laser.. lasers are in the visible light spectrum.. this is scalar energy.. nasa has finally woken up..

too bad the soviets were dealing with this stuff in the 1950's..

http://www.cheniere.org/books/analysis/history.h tm

Re:Not a laser.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182172)

Yes, but they are lasers...all the light is going in one direction. So you can't see them until the light hits and reflects off something or it hits you straight on.

This ain't the Star Wars universe...

Informative? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182209)

Oh dear god, moderators zapped with stupid-ray?

Invisible lasers are very common, look no further than your nearest CD player (IR laser).

Re:Not a laser.. (1)

68K (234318) | about 11 years ago | (#7182242)

"Not a laser?"

You sir, are an idiot. Check your CD/DVD player sometime.

Re:Not a laser.. (4, Informative)

YouHaveSnail (202852) | about 11 years ago | (#7182311)

When was the last time you saw an invisible laser.. lasers are in the visible light spectrum

I'm not a physicist, but I've seen lots of inivisble lasers (okay, not the beam itself, but you know...). Lasers in both the infrared and ultraviolet regions are commonplace. Google for "infrared laser" or "ultraviolet laser" and you'll find many, many examples of each.

I suppose you could make some sort of argument that the L in LASER if for "light," and that IR and UV somehow aren't light because we can't see them. But insects and perhaps some animals can see in those regions, so it'd be a difficult position to defend. Both IR and UV are called "light" in general use. Additionally, there's no significant physical difference between a visible light laser and a UV or IR laser. And scientists now use the term "laser" even where most people would agree that the electromagnetic energy in question falls outside the part of the spectrum that we tend to think of as "light," e.g. x-ray lasers [optics2001.com] and microwave lasers [achilles.net] .

What happens in bad weather? (1)

McCall (212035) | about 11 years ago | (#7182097)

"A telecommunications company could put transponders on an airplane and fly it over a city," Bushman said. "The aircraft could be used for everything from relaying cell phone calls to cable television or Internet connections."

Now I will have an excuse for not calling the folks often enough - "Sorry ma, I tried to call but it was cloudy, and the telephone exchange fell out of the sky.". Seriously, how would these work during extreme weather conditions? I presume they must have some sort of fuel on-board as backup or would the laser simply cut through cloud vapor?

/me can see himself having fun with radio controlled planes and mirrors in the future....

Very far off, I hope. (4, Funny)

YouHaveSnail (202852) | about 11 years ago | (#7182113)

How far away can in-flight IP/LASER broadband be?

Let's hope it's very, very far off. A laser beam pointing to/from a commercial aircraft is essentially a giant pointer, constantly updated, announcing the precise position of the plane. It should not be difficult at all to build a guidance system that follows the laser and delivers a payload to the plane just as a line climber [intothewind.com] follows a kite string to a kite. Said payload is not likely to be an emergency delivery of peanuts and soda.

It's Called Radar (2, Insightful)

Myriad (89793) | about 11 years ago | (#7182213)

A laser beam pointing to/from a commercial aircraft is essentially a giant pointer, constantly updated, announcing the precise position of the plane. It should not be difficult at all to build a guidance system that follows the laser and delivers a payload to the plane just as a line climber [intothewind.com] follows a kite string to a kite.

Hmmm, a system capable of tracking the precise position of an aircraft? You mean like RADAR?

Blockwars [blockwars.com] : free, and multiplayer

Re:Very far off, I hope. (1)

barzok (26681) | about 11 years ago | (#7182225)

It's a backwards Smart Bomb!

In Soviet Russia, ground smart-bombs plane!

Re:Very far off, I hope. (1)

Timesprout (579035) | about 11 years ago | (#7182255)

note to self patent method for delivering emergency suppies of peanuts and soda to flying aircraft using laser following guidance system.

Re:Very far off, I hope. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182288)

The RADAR transponders on commercial aircraft *already* give the exact position of the airplane, there's no reason to believe a missile couldn't just as easily follow that signal.

If only (1)

Kujah (630784) | about 11 years ago | (#7182120)

If only they could harness this "laser" technology to allow consumers to burn dvds faster. Oh well.

Just don't look down (0)

schtum (166052) | about 11 years ago | (#7182147)

"Hey, I can see my house from hOH GOD, MY EYES!!"

What a wast of time and money (2, Insightful)

FreeSky (695956) | about 11 years ago | (#7182157)

They directed a laser beam at photaic cells? Nice other name than solar panel. OK, the laser powered plain flies as long a laser hits it. But still the plain is carrying it fuel (photaic cell aka solar panel) on board, as meantion in the introduction. This is no breakthrough but rather a toy for big children.

Re:What a wast of time and money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182235)

A solar panel is not "fuel" anymore than the fuel pump in your car...

Re:What a waste of time and money (1)

Space cowboy (13680) | about 11 years ago | (#7182334)

There is a difference between an engine, and fuel. Good (insert random deity) man!

Whether it's a waste is a different matter, mind ...

Simon

Balsa.. (1, Interesting)

Papatoast (245525) | about 11 years ago | (#7182162)

The article claims its the first plane to fly without fuel on board...Heh!

I used to buy balsa wood airplanes at the local 7/11 for fifty cents and fly those puppies all day with no fuel on board. 'Course at the end of the day you would light the tail on fire with the matches you snuck from the kitchen drawer, climb up on the roof and send her spiralling into oblivion; riding a tail of flame and smoke!

We didn't need no stinkin lasers!

Cool! (4, Funny)

Garion911 (10618) | about 11 years ago | (#7182164)

I can see it now:

"Homeless celebrate as pre-cooked pigeons fall from sky near airport"

Guided Missiles (2, Funny)

rf0 (159958) | about 11 years ago | (#7182165)

Well least missles won't need their own guidance now . They can just follow the laser.

Rus

Re:Guided Missiles (0)

boogy nightmare (207669) | about 11 years ago | (#7182331)



i hope this was sarcasm since most modern missiles use laser to target these days...

Been there, seen that. (1)

agilen (410830) | about 11 years ago | (#7182166)

I remember something like this from several years ago...seems like it has actually turned into a company: http://www.lightcrafttechnologies.com/ [lightcraft...logies.com]

Remote sensing?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182171)

The concept offers potential commercial value to the remote sensing and telecommunications industries, according to Bushman.

Is that just fancy talk for "The people who want to spy on you"?

IP/LASER (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182176)

Already exist (or existed) in central Stockholm, Sweden.

Mwhahaha (1)

dolo666 (195584) | about 11 years ago | (#7182179)

My only question is, how soon before Thinkgeek.com [thinkgeek.com] gets these? :)

Birds (1)

blogboy (638908) | about 11 years ago | (#7182182)

And you thought windfarms were bad. Falling birds...now availble shredded *or* fried.

What is the fixation with wings? (2, Interesting)

Moderation abuser (184013) | about 11 years ago | (#7182200)

The atmosphere is an ocean, you can float on it effortlessly. Why spend so much time trying to expend energy to stay up?

aren't "photovoltaic cells" "solar cells" (1)

mschaffer (97223) | about 11 years ago | (#7182203)

The first two parragraphs of the article state:

Ever since the dawn of powered flight, it has been necessary for all aircraft to carry onboard fuel - whether in the form of batteries, fuel, solar cells, or even a human "engine" - in order to stay aloft.

But a team of researchers from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif., and the University of Alabama in Huntsville is trying to change that. Then they state that:

The laser tracks the aircraft in flight, directing its energy beam at specially designed photovoltaic cells carried onboard to power the plane's propeller.

Well, how is this much different than carrying a solar cell? It is still carrying what the author describes as "onboard fuel". The laser thing is cool, though. :-)

It's not the first "light" powered craft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182307)

There have been several other light powered craft, although mostly using solar vs. laser power. It makes sense to beam energy to vehicles vs. carrying it as stored energy and releasing it via chemical reactions. You save weight and like someone else said it's scalable! You can also put the beam sources in orbit for better efficiency above 400,000 ft.

Why not use the same technique for ion drive based space probes? Perhaps we could even use arrays of micro particle accelerators as the engine.

Re:It's not the first "light" powered craft (1)

Dragoon (10644) | about 11 years ago | (#7182350)

Quote from a friend of mine who does a lot of energy based "work"

"they claim "it has been necessary for all aircraft to carry onboard fuel -- whether in the form of batteries, fuel, solar cells,"
a laser hitting a "photovoltaic" cell is the exact same idea as the sun hitting a "solar cell" which by its very nature is photovoltaic... "

I dropped a lot of his cursing :)

The EPA will not stand for this! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182223)

Just think about all of the birds that get in the way.

Can you say projectile vomiting? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182241)

...after you hack the navigation laser and upload the program from the Laser Zeppelin show from the local planetarium. Think when those Spirograph patterns get displayed. No amount of free peanuts will make up for that.

Laser Power (1)

danknight (570145) | about 11 years ago | (#7182248)

But, How far can this scale up ?
A balsa wood R/C aircraft is cool and all but I'm willing to bet that it will be a long time before we'll see one carring a human passenger

One simple question (1)

tsa (15680) | about 11 years ago | (#7182261)

How does it work? And why do we want this? It's not exactly energy efficient or simple, is it?

China (1)

hey (83763) | about 11 years ago | (#7182301)

This is cool but I like China's space program better...they are going to be doing manned exploration of S P A C E.

Re:China (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182357)

:-)

testing

Pointless (1)

amightywind (691887) | about 11 years ago | (#7182318)

NASA has successfully tested a small-scale aircraft that flies solely by means of propulsive power delivered by an invisible, ground-based laser.

Wonderful. If NASA scales up the airplane to do something useful the laser will have to be so powerful that it will incinerate the vehicle.

How far away can in-flight IP/LASER broadband be?

In a sense it has been here for some time. The US military flies satellites that use laser crosslinks to relay communications. Milstar is one. Any others?

A Few Comments (3, Informative)

ChuckDivine (221595) | about 11 years ago | (#7182323)

I first read about this sort of thing back in the 1970s. Proposals back then focused on constructing huge satellites (think 5 miles by 5 miles or 10 KM by 10 KM) in geosynchronous orbit. Energy would be beamed to earth via microwaves or lasers.

Planes could be powered via laser pointed at various reception devices (photovoltaic, steam generators, etc.).

Clouds would not be a major problem. Just pick a frequency that penetrated the clouds fairly easily. Or, in the case of airplanes, fly above the clouds.

For lots more information, just Google "Space Solar Power" [google.com] .

What use is this? (1, Insightful)

mactari (220786) | about 11 years ago | (#7182347)

From the article:
The plane, with its five-foot wingspan, weighs only 11 ounces and is constructed from balsa wood, carbon fiber tubing and is covered with Mylar film, a cellophane-like material.... The lightweight, low-speed plane was flown indoors at Marshall to prevent wind and weather from affecting the test flights.... Without the need for onboard fuel or batteries, such a plane could carry scientific or communication equipment, for instance, and stay in flight indefinitely.

Okay, they've gotten a plane they weighs less than my foot with a wingspan longer than most 12 year-olds are tall to fly where there's no wind.

Does this have any practical application where a helium blimp -- or a simple antannae -- wouldn't be a better choice? I mean, even if we had something decent sized, this thing's gotta keep moving and sucking energy or it'll come crashing to the ground. It doesn't even hover. And it's not like this has applications with passengers.

But then we find the answer, again from the linked article...

Laser power beaming is a promising technology for future development of aircraft design and operations. The concept supports NASA's mission-critical goals for the development of revolutionary aerospace technologies.

As an ex-on-site government contractor (not that that's required to have a clue here), I think I might see what's going on. NASA has grant money for "revolutionary aerospace tech" and this company is happy to create something impractical that'll soak up enough dough to pay them for a few years. Wish we'd quit looking for new stuff and just send another 1960s capsule to the moon and back.

I realize that's pretty cynical... But honestly, where's a good treatment (better than the article) of what this sort of thing is pratically good for?

If God has meant us to fly with lasers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7182348)

...he would have given us photon receptors that convert light into energy.

Wireless laptop power? (2, Interesting)

semanticgap (468158) | about 11 years ago | (#7182371)


It'd be nice if I could something like this to work to power my laptop!
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