Solar-powered drones might have the ability to replace certain types of satellites.
Titan Aerospace presented its Solara 50 and Solara 60 prototypes at the Association of Unmanned Systems International conference in Washington, D.C. earlier this month and offered up an interesting new use for drones.
Rather than the spying or killing contraptions exclusively useful to military and intelligence operations that drones have been portrayed to be, Titan argues they could have a solid commercial application that has the potential to improve telecommunications.
“What we’re focusing on from the capability perspective is cell tower in the sky scenario where you can put a 4G repeater in there and it replaces literally 100 cell towers,” Maximus Yaney, chief technical officer for Titan, told CBS News.
The new solar-powered drone is expected to be available for the commercial market in 2014, according to information from the New Mexico company.
Every available inch of the unmanned aircraft is covered in solar cells and the drone is designed to absorb enough sunlight during daylight hours to maintain the its operations and fully charge a bank of lithium-ion batteries in the wings that will support the drone through the dark night. The aircraft is covered in more than 3,000 solar cells.
Yaney said the drone would fly to 65,000 feet, where it could act as an atmospheric satellite.
“Solar power, you have the capability effectively of staying up there indefinitely,” he told CBS. “You’re simply limited by the rechargeable batteries.”
Other reports about the Titan drones suggest that they would most likely stay in orbit for about five years before landing for maintenance repairs. That means they will be easier to remove from orbit than traditional satellites. Skidding in for attention and being redeployed could make the solar-powered drones a strong alternative to traditional atmospheric satellites. The drones also present an opportunity to modernize cellular communications in an efficient way.
“What we’re really focusing on from the capability perspective is creating an alternate to adding to the satellite technology platform,” Yaney told CBS.