Homer‘s beloved character, Odysseus, may have garnered international acclaim by traversing the globe in a ship, but we think the famed traveler’s latest namesake represents a much hotter way to roam. Aurora Flight Sciences has unveiled a solar-powered concept plane, the Odysseus. The autonomous surveillance craft boasts the ability to fly above the earth for up to five years straight, deriving power solely from its solar panels.
The Odysseus is actually a combination of three planes made up of 164-foot-long, wing-shaped structures. The planes would be launched separately and then combine once in the stratosphere, where air is calmer. Once the craft is fully assembled, it measures 492 feet in width and is capable of zipping along at 140 miles per hour at an altitude of 60,000 to 90,000 feet. Solar panels lining the top of the plane provide power, and the craft itself is capable of autonomously changing its shape in order to maximize sunlight exposure. Researchers are currently exploring different ways the plane could store power when the sun isn’t shining–possible methods include flywheels, fuel cells or even batteries.
So far, the plane is just in the concept stage, but researchers are currently working on a half-sized plane and expect to complete a full-sized prototype within the next five years. Once the company creates a fully functioning plane, the Odysseus could come in handy for the environment and national security: researchers say the craft could be used for surveillance, like patrolling borders or observing suspected nuclear reactor sites. The sun-powered plane could also be used for environmental surveillance, monitoring storm development, the ozone layer and even changes brought on by global warming.
Via Popular Science