Autonomous high-altitude aircraft nails new flight tests
We're a step closer to having high-altitude, long-endurance, autonomous aircraft soaring through the skies. UAVOS has now announced that a prototype of the company's High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) ApusDuo aircraft has completed the first stage of flight tests.
As the name suggests, these HAPS aircraft are designed to occupy the space between drones and satellites, soaring to altitudes as high as 20,000 m (65,600 ft). From that vantage point, they're able to monitor the environment in the atmosphere and back on the ground, beam internet or radio communications over long distances, or perform military surveillance operations. The Airbus Zephyr is one such project, and until recently Facebook had been trialling a program called Aquila that was designed to beam high-speed internet to the world.
UAVOS' aircraft, the ApusDuo, follows a similar design, with two long parallel wings connected and supported by three perpendicular struts. The wings are lined with solar panels for power, and can autonomously bend and flex to keep the craft airborne for long periods – up to a year at a time, according to UAVOS.
After conducting test flights earlier this year, the company has now released a new video showing a larger prototype, with a wingspan of 10 m (32.8 ft), taking to the skies. According to UAVOS, the updated ApusDuo has nailed the tests, verifying the aerodynamics and showing that the control algorithms can successfully operate in the air, as well as during takeoff and landing.
As big as it looks in the video – it takes three people to launch – this version of the ApusDuo is just a fraction of the planned final craft, which is set to measure 28 m (91.9 ft) from tip to tip.
Check out the insect-like ApusDuo prototype soaring gracefully in the video below.