Aircraft designer Titan Aerospace unveiled recently its Solara 50 and 60 unmanned aircrafts, the world’s first atmospheric satellites powered by the sun with a mission range of over 4 million kilometres. According to reports, Solara 50 and 60 can be launched at night using power from internal battery banks. Solara 50 can travel at 104 kilometres an hour (about 64 MPH).
An atmospheric satellite is a drone that can conduct most of the operations of an orbital satellite, but is much cheaper and more versatile.
When the sun rises, the solar panels covering the crafts’ wings and tails, store enough energy to allow them ascend to a position of 20 km above the sea level and to stay aloft continuously for five years, without ever having to land and refuel. The aircrafts will operate in an atmospheric sweet spot known as the tropopause where winds are generally less than 5 knots.
Despite its massive dimensions, Solara 50 only weighs about 160 kg, and can carry a payload of 32 kg. According to reports, differently from satellites, it is possible to get the payload back at the end of its five years endurance.
According to reports, smaller versions of Solara have already flown, and Titan Aerospace is planning to start selling operational systems in less than a year which opens up possibilities like regional internet or a version of Google Maps with real-time images. Among the applications of a Solara aircraft there are disaster recovery, weather monitoring, communications relay, oceanographic research and earth imaging