From Aviation Week and Space Technology 2005 June

SoLong Solar-Powered Drone Stays Aloft for 48 Hr.

Aviation Week and Space Technology, Jun 26, 2005

PERPETUAL MOTION

People have long dreamed of perpetual flight, and the tipping point was reached earlier this month when a solar-powered drone stayed aloft for 48 hr.

It showed that enough energy could be stored during the day to fly the aircraft at night, for at least several days. All that's needed are small, near-term improvements in technology to tip this feat into flights lasting reliably for months.

One application, albeit much harder, would be as a radio tower in the sky, giving line-of-sight access across a city.

AC Propulsion, a small research company in San Dimas, Calif., made the flight after several years of dedicated effort by its founder, Alan G. Cocconi. Semi-perpetual flight has been sought after for years, most notably by AeroVironment and its solar-powered Helios drone with fuel cell storage (AW&ST Feb. 28, 2000, p. 58). More recently the company has been working on a pure fuel cell week-long flier (see p. 52).

But AC Propulsion used lithium-ion laptop computer batteries for storage instead of fuel cells, as well as an overall simpler approach, to become the first to fly through two full nights under solar power (AW&ST Sept. 15, 2003, p. 66). It's a friendly rivalry, as Cocconi has been an important collaborator on several AeroVironment projects.

The aircraft is called SoLong and is a powered sailplane of Cocconi's own design with solar cells built into the wing. It weighs 28.2 lb., has a 15.6-ft. span, and takes off with its own 1-hp.

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Topics of Interest

PERPETUAL MOTION People have long dreamed of perpetual flight, and the tipping point was reached earlier this month when a solar-powered drone stayed aloft for 48 hr. It showed that enough energy...

PERPETUAL MOTION People have long dreamed of perpetual flight, and the tipping point was reached earlier this month when a solar-powered drone stayed aloft for 48 hr. It showed that enough energy...

An electric-motor driven UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) recently completed a 48-hr nonstop test flight using only solar energy. The SoLong unmanned aerial vehicle from AC Propulsion recently flew over...

An electric-motor driven UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) recently completed a 48-hr nonstop test flight using only solar energy. The SoLong unmanned aerial vehicle from AC Propulsion recently flew over...

Unmanned aerial vehicle builder AeroVironment is flight-testing a subscale prototype UAV featuring a new long-endurance liquid hydrogen fuel system at Yuma, Ariz., according to company officials. The...