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NASA demonstrates laser-powered aircraft first

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October 10, 2003

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October 11, 2003 A team of NASA researchers has developed and demonstrated a ground-breaking small-scale aircraft that flies on laser power. Rather than carrying fuel on-board, the aircraft is powered entirely by an invisible, ground-based laser that tracks the aircraft in flight and delivers energy to a special panel of photovoltaic cells on the plane that in turn drive the propeller.

Similar demonstration flights were made in 2002 using a theatrical searchlight as the power source, but the recent flights are the first known demonstration of an aircraft flying totally powered by a ground-based laser according to NASA's recent press statement: "The craft could keep flying as long as the energy source, in this case the laser beam, is uninterrupted," said Robert Burdine, Marshall's laser project manager for the test. "This is the first time that we know of that a plane has been powered only by the energy of laser light. It really is a groundbreaking development for aviation.

"The laser-power breakthrough could provide a means to keep telecommunications or remote sensing aircraft aloft indefinitely as well as having enormous implications for space travel.

Photos: Tom Tschida, NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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1 Comment

A laser powered 2 seater PAV would just be the thing I want, because I could park it on my balcony or ty it to the balcony rail. Security to prevent \"beam-stealing\" will be needed.

jochair
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