UAVs Stay In The Air For Days, Months

by Evan Ackerman | Submitted Wednesday Sep 23, 2009 [11:40 AM]

Orion HALL is a liquid hydrogen fueled aircraft.
Aurora Flight Sciences, the same guys who’ve been working on the Excalibur and the GoldenEye 80, have unveiled a concept for a UAV that they hope to have flying next year, if the Defense Department funds it. The 8000 pound “Orion” is designed to carry a 1000 pound payload at 20000 feet for 5 days without coming down… Suck it, human pilots.

Originally, Orion was supposed to be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. And maybe it will be, eventually, but not for a few years, at least… The technology just isn’t quite there yet, which is oh so sad for a whole bunch of reasons. The version that would be flying this year would be powered by a 300 hp diesel engine, and would soar on wings spanning 132 feet.

And incidentally, this happens to be the chubbiest UAV I’ve ever seen.

If 5 days of endurance doesn’t sufficiently meet your needs, how about a month or two? From a UAV that can be launched by hand, no less? This is what QinetiQ promises with their Zephyr UAV. It has a wingspan of 40 feet, but only weighs 60 pounds, and most of that is batteries. The entire upper surface of the UAV is covered with solar panels, and by flying at 50,000 feet Zephyr can suck up enough power during the day to keep itself flying at night, which pretty well takes care of the primary reason that UAVs need to return to earth. So far, Zephyr has maxed out at 54 hours, but it still managed to set the record for longest duration unmanned flight.

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Tags:uav  airplane  autonomous  aerial  hydrogen+powered  QinetiQ 

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