U.S. Navy’s Future Solar-Powered Drone Boasts Game-Changing Endurance and Payload

Solar power, just as wind power, is making a comeback so to speak, with the world now focusing on clean sources of energy. But, while it’s mostly associated with immovable projects such as houses and production plants, a revolutionary project intends to pioneer a solar-powered drone with the capabilities of an advanced aircraft.
The future solar-powered drone is meant to "fly forever" while boasting an unprecedented payload capacity 6 photos
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The aerospace industry is filled with new names, since so many startups are taking their chance at winning on this promising market. One of them is Skydweller, a name worth remembering because it’s associated with a truly revolutionizing concept. The U.S.-Spanish aerospace company is working on solar-powered aircraft solutions.

Skydweller promises two exciting capabilities for its aircraft – perpetual flight and increased payload capacity. Add to that the fact that they’ll be unmanned, and you’ve got the sketch of a potentially game-changing aircraft. This new class of unmanned aircraft would actually be a cross between an aircraft and a geosynchronous satellite (a satellite with a fixed position and an orbital period that matches the Earth's rotation period), with advanced telecommunication capabilities.

Through engineering and design advancements, an initial piloted long-endurance aircraft with over 1,250 flight hours, became a solar-powered, autonomous platform. With a wingspan of 236 feet (72 meters), and a cruising speed of up to 100 knots, the future Skydweller drone is also capable of carrying an impressive payload of up to 880 lbs (400 kg).

This payload includes communications relay, day/night full motion video, imaging radars, satellite communications and more – which makes the future solar-powered drone particularly interesting for intelligence operations, besides telecommunication.

The company seems to be growing fast, with a recent $8 million funding now taking it to a total of $40 million raised so far. According to Skydweller, its first public contract was awarded by the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), for demonstrating the first ultra-long endurance unmanned aircraft.

Skydweller also initiated a partnership with publicly traded U.S. company Palantir Technologies, which will provide highly-advanced analytics tools for processing large amounts of complex data – adding to the future’s drone capabilities.

No official launch date has been set yet for the solar-powered long-endurance drone, but it’s sure to make an impact.

press release

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