Unmanned solar wing-in-ground-effect vehicle being developed in Russia

Unmanned solar wing-in-ground-...
The Storm-600 should be put to the test for the first time, later this summer (Northern Hemisphere)
The Storm-600 should be put to the test for the first time, later this summer (Northern Hemisphere)
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The Storm-600 should be put to the test for the first time, later this summer (Northern Hemisphere)
The Storm-600 should be put to the test for the first time, later this summer (Northern Hemisphere)

Russia has a long history of experimenting with wing-in-ground-effect (WIG) vehicles, most notably the huge ekranoplans dating back to the 1960s. Now, Russian scientists are developing a smaller unmanned WIG, that's solar-powered.

Sort of a cross between an airplane and a boat, wing-in-ground-effect vehicles use forward velocity to create lift, at the same time producing a cushion of air beneath their relatively short and stubby wings. This allows them to fly just above the surface of the water, moving much faster than a boat while using less fuel than a conventional aircraft.

The new vehicle is being built by engineers at Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, led by researcher Alexei Maistro. It's known as the Storm-600.

Designed to operate autonomously, it forgoes an onboard pilot for GPS-based navigation, conventional radio wave-based radar, and a LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) system that allows it to detect and avoid obstacles.

Battery power for its electric motors is supplied by an array of photovoltaic panels on its topside, potentially allowing the craft to remain deployed for long periods of time without needing to return to a base for refuelling. It currently has a theoretical top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph), although its designers hope to boost that figure to 300 km/h (186 mph).

Plans call for the Storm-600 to be tested on the Neva River in St. Petersburg, later this summer. It could ultimately find use in patrolling, search-and-rescue or cargo delivery operations, plus it may also be utilized as a mobile charging platform for both aerial and underwater drones.

Source: Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University via EurekAlert

Seems to me the devs have to thicken up the skin on the leading edge. Then it occurs to me that this tech might combine well with maglev or hyperloop. I mean on some kind of rail system that can keep the thing from flying out of the track while carrying people at 500+ mph on the ground. Still would want to toughen the leading edge.
I really like the WIG concept, having been fascinated with the idea for years. I’d love to see this old technology kickstarted again to see where it would take us.
Edgar Walkowsky
Those solar panels, at best, will help extend the range a little. Here's why: Let's say the top of the vehicle is 10 square meters in area. At 100% efficiency, the solar panels would produce 10kwh, enough to power an electric motorbike. However, solar panels are around 20% efficient. Add to that, the solar panels are layed flat, making them about 25% less efficient. So you're looking at a tiny 1.5kwh.
Could this thing be used in a collective, telemetrically coordinated swarm, like when they have flying drones coordinate their flight to make amazing formations in the sky? If so, maybe it could be used in great numbers to help clean up the plastic trash filling up our oceans!
This craft will be unstable like balancing on a frictionless ball. You'd think after all these yrs they would have figured it out by now. So good it doesn't carry people.
While it might work farther south, in Russia this will get little solar power from bad angles.