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Titan Solara Can Remain Aloft for Five Years

Unmanned aircraft can function like a satellite at a fraction of the cost

Imagine an unmanned aircraft that can stay aloft for up to five years. The Solara 50 UAV by Los Angeles-based Titan Aerospace can remain in flight at a stationary position above the Earth so it can function like a satellite, at a fraction of the cost of space-based systems. Think of a cell phone tower at 65,000 feet – equivalent to more than a hundred terrestrial cell phone towers.

Solara can provide live mapping to support crop monitoring and firefighting; weather and atmospheric observation and data collection; asset tracking; and persistent surveillance. The solar cells are applied to the wing and tail structures and generate enough power for propulsion, payload, and battery recharging. Because it’s solar powered, there are zero emissions.

Titan unveiled its latest Solara 50 and Solara 60 aircraft at the Association of Unmanned Systems International (AUVSI) conference and exhibition that took place in Washington, D.C., Aug. 12-15.

Titan’s Noah Fram-Schwartz says the all-composite aircraft uses solar power to charge the batteries during the day, and operates on the batteries at night. Because the aircraft can fly above weather it avoids turbulence and can always count on sunny days to keep the batteries charged. Titan refers to these high-fliers as “atmospheric satellites,” which can maintain a geostationary orbit. And at 65,000 feet, there isn’t a lot of traffic to worry about. Commercial aircraft operate many thousands of feet below Solara.

Solara 50 UAV

The Solara 50 UAV is designed to be capable of staying aloft for five years. Titan Aerospace rendering

Launching usually occurs at night with fully charged batteries, allowing the aircraft to reach its operating altitude at dawn to commence the day-night cycle. Long summer days and shorter nights allow for more power generation.

New technology has made the Solara possible, especially developments in carbon-fiber composite structures, more efficient solar cells, and batteries that can endure many charge and discharge cycles. The aircraft weighs just 350 pounds, and can carry a 70-pound payload. It has a length of 54 feet and a wing span three times that, at 164 feet from wing tip to wing tip. The Solara 60 is bigger and can generate more power for a larger payload.

Solara can provide live mapping to support crop monitoring and firefighting; weather and atmospheric observation and data collection; asset tracking; and persistent surveillance. The solar cells are applied to the wing and tail structures and generate enough power for propulsion, payload, and battery recharging. Because it’s solar powered, there are zero emissions.

Solara 50 UAV

Advances in solar technology have made a UAV like the Solara 50 possible. Titan Aerospace rendering

The first aircraft is under construction for delivery next year.

By

Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...