Everyone needs a little space from time to time and this solar aircraft gets plenty of it. The Solara 60, the largest of three solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) from New Mexico-based Titan Aerospace, can remain 65,000 feet in the air for nearly five years.
This featherweight aircraft built using composites has a 160-foot wingspan and is wrapped in solar cells that supply the energy needed to take off at 20 mph. Carrying up to 250 pounds of payload, the Solara 60 will carry anything from signals intelligence gear to electro-optical sensors or communications equipment. The Solara 10 is already flying on regular missions, the Solara 50 is currently in advanced development and the Solara 60 is expected to fly in late 2014.
According to Titan Aerospace, each plane can maintain energy even when the sun is low on the horizon, employing its high efficiency solar panel positioned on horizontal wings and tail, slanted wing tips and vertical tail.
The company’s main focus for these UAV planes is on disaster management and other civilian applications. Although they would be vulnerable to enemy fire due to their slow speed and lack of defense, the aircraft would be capable of repositioning to take photos, providing cell coverage and helping with mapping if a disaster struck.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the world’s largest trade show for unmanned planes, vehicles and ships, held its annual convention Aug. 12-15, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. During the convention, Titan Aerospace unveiled the Solara 60 to attendees.