soon a plane that can fly alone for three months

In partnership with the American-Spanish aerospace company Skydweller Aero Inc. The US Navy is developing a drone that can stay in the air for 90 days with the help of solar panels. The aircraft will be able to carry numerous maritime reconnaissance and surveillance instruments.

The development of this new aircraft, christened skydwelleris based on the Solar Impulse 2, a manned solar-powered aircraft that circumnavigated the globe in 2015 and 2016. The Skydweller Aero company converted the aircraft simply by removing the pilot’s seat, allowing for a wider range of payloads, among other improvements and modifications.

The drone presents a wingspan of 72 meters and will be covered with 885 square meters of photovoltaic cells that can generate up to two kilowatts of power. It can hold up to 360 kg of equipment. According to Aviation Today, Skydweller will be able to: navigate up to 100 knots (about 185 km/h) at an altitude of up to 14,000 meters. Finally, the company plans to equip the device with hydrogen fuel cells to ensure its performance in bad weather.

« We are currently following our test plan for autonomous flight, then autonomous takeoff, then autonomous landing and finally our first fully autonomous flight.“Skydweller Aero CEO Robert Miller told New Scientist.” Once all this is proven, we move on to extended endurance testing with the goal of working more than 90 days.« .

The solar plane Solar Impulse 2. Credits: Matth1 / Wikipedia

A more efficient drone in every way

The US Navy is currently operating drones that are larger but capable of continuing to fly no more than thirty hours during maritime patrols. The Skydweller allows the US Navy to continuously monitor the surrounding seas while escorting ships for several weeks.

« There will certainly be differentiated missions that only the Skydweller can do, but the heart of it will really do things we already do today, only better, smarter and more efficiently.said company co-founder John Parkes.

This new drone (which will require fewer take-offs and landings while reducing the need for mobile platforms and associated maintenance costs) will also save the US navy a lot of money.

« Being able to travel thousands of miles, staying in an area for thirty to sixty days, and retreat is a distinguishing feature.« , for John Parkes. « That’s a huge savings for the US government when you consider the total cost of most of the national security missions we have.s “.