Solar Powered Drone Breaks World Record For Continuous Flight
Airbus has broken the record for longest continuous flight. Their solar powered Zephyr S Drone flew at an altitude of 70 000 feet for almost 26 days. In the future drones like Zephyr S could be used to monitor wildfires and oil spills potentially replacing satellites entirely.
The key to their success was storing enough excess solar power in the day to be used at night. In doing so they were able to keep Zephyrs two propellers engaged between light cycles. Airbus has been working on the unmanned arial vehicle since 2015
Flying at an altitude of 70 000 feet the Zephyr S maintained a height well above commercial airliners and dangerous weather patterns providing a safety advantage over conventional aircraft. Their field of view is somewhere in between that of an airplane and satellite possibly providing a cheaper alternative to surveillance satellites in the future.
The drone also has some serious potential for providing internet and communication capabilities to some of the worlds most remote areas. Satellite internet is currently the only alternative to people living far away from any fiber optic grid. However, since satellites orbit at such a high altitude the signal takes a long time reach a receiver and so internet access can be extremely slow, similiar to how dial-up was in the 90s. With solar powered drones circling the area at 70 000 feet however you could provide them with faster internet and telephone access.
Alphabet, the corporation behind Google is currently researching drone powered internet broadcasting. Perhaps they could partner with Airbus in speeding up this process. Providing internet to the worlds most remote areas can provide these people an opportunity to educate themselves and find alternate means of employment.