Traditional satellites may soon gain a serious competitor in the form of “satellite plane“Apart from the satellites that fly around the Earth, they will hover above our heads autonomous aircraftwhich today will play the same role as ordinary satellites. This will happen if the company realizes its idea Aero Skydweller. For several years, it has been experimenting with autonomous aircraft powered by solar energy.
The first successful attempt to fly around the Earth without a drop of fuel is behind the plane Solar Pulse 2. He created this miracle of aeronautical technology two Swiss, the explorer Bertrand Piccard and the engineer Bertrand Borschberg. In 2016, a bizarre-looking plane with the wingspan of a Boeing 747 and the weight of an average SUV flew around the world. It drew engine power from more than 17,000 solar panels on its wings.
In 2019, the Solar Impulse 2 solar aircraft was purchased by the company Aero Skydweller and began its own tests. The company’s engineers set themselves a goal – remove the pilot from the plane and replace him with a properly programmed computer. The aircraft completed twelve highly successful test flights over southeastern Spain. It turned out that it can be easily transformed into a flying drone, which the CEO of the company even called “a pseudo-satellite“.
Take-offs and landings of the plane are always done with the help of the pilot, but this too is to be eliminated. The next version of the aircraft will not have a cockpit. This will reduce the weight of the aircraft and lengthen the flight (Solar Impulse 2’s longest flight lasted less than five days).
Business inhabitant of the sky announces that the first aircraft capable of serving as satellites will be ready in 2023. Facebook and Google have tried autonomous aircraft before, but it only ended with the presentation of prototypes.
Meanwhile, engineers inhabitant of the sky they are sure that they will surely succeed in completing the project. Interest in adults”pseudo-satelliteand “is supposed to be huge. The US Navy has already invested millions of dollars in the Skydweller project. The military hopes to use autonomous aircraft to patrol the sea basins. They must replace drones that can stay in the air for a maximum of 30 hours. Satellite planes they will also be able to play the same role as telecommunications satellites, i.e. allow remote transmission of radio and television signals between terrestrial stations. They will do it cheaper than ordinary satellites, and will also be more environmentally friendly, because their elevation to a high altitude will be done only thanks to the energy of solar panels.
The idea of using autonomous aircraft as satellites has come up against two serious obstacles. The first is related to the Sun, because such an aircraft needs sunlight to power its engine. This can significantly limit its use in certain regions of the globe. Another challenge is to create appropriate regulations that will define the rules for the circulation of these aircraft in the airspace reserved for civil aviation. There may be a lot of people in the sky, which will be dangerous for passenger planes. The creators of the project believe, however, that they will be able to create satellite aircraft network. Thus, they will create competition for Elon Musk’s satellites which are overpriced and of course harmful for the environment, as they are carried into orbit by rockets that burn fuel.