Here comes the sun

Apparently, those US defence research guys at DARPA seem to be hugely inspired by plans and prototypes for solar-powered UAVs that can store enough juice during sunlight to keep flying through the wee hours.

According to Wired.com, DARPA has been mightily impressed with UAVs that have already demonstrated quite long flights, even though these have been concentrated near the Equator and at midsummer.

The agency now wants to build much more capable, larger versions able to stay airborne for years at a stretch, even in polar regions, using a new miracle material called “Power Skin”.

Power Skin would typically be thin monolithic solar panel sheets used as an independent power source and, simultaneously, serve as a lightweight structural material.

Also, check out Eric Raymond’s latest bid to fly across Europe in an aircraft powered by the sun’s rays to prove that solar air travel is viable.

Raymond’s eight-country tour of the continent with his Sunseeker II starts Monday. The new aircraft features several improvements over Sunseeker 1, including a more efficient tail design, a full complement of navigation and soaring instruments and lithium polymer batteries instead of nickel cadmium.

Interestingly, larger wings mean more surface area for the solar cells, and this time around they’re embedded in the wings rather than stuck on top so the aircraft can operate continuously on solar power when the weather is good  

 

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