The US Navy is developing a pilotless solar-powered plane that can fly for 90 days at a time to help keep a watchful eye on naval ships below or act as a communications relay platform.
The plane, dubbed ‘Skydweller’ and developed by Skydweller Aero, builds on the manned Solar Impulse 2 aircraft that flew around the world in 2015 and 2016, but had to stop every five days.
The upgraded version will eliminate the cockpit, allowing space for hardware that allows for autonomous abilities.
Skydweller Aero CEO Robert Miller told New Scientist: ‘When we remove the cockpit, we are enabling true persistence and providing the opportunity to install up to about 400 kilograms of payload capacity.’
The pilotless craft will feature 236-foot long wings that are blanked in solar cells, but its makers may add hydrogen fuel cells for an additional boost.
‘We are currently following our plan to test autonomous flight, then autonomous take-off, then autonomous landing and finally our first fully autonomous flight,’ Miller added.
‘Once all this has been proven, we will move into long-endurance testing with the goal of operating for 90-plus days.’
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Source: By Stacy Liberatore for Dailymail.com