Two Global Hawk
unmanned aircraft have flown in close formation at distances as close as 30 feet (9 m) for the first time. The series of flights took place between January 11 and May 30 this year and marked a major milestone on the way to demonstrating the first autonomous aerial refueling between two unmanned, high-altitude aircraft as part of DARPA’s Autonomous High-Altitude Refueling (AHR) program.
Daring Austrian base-jumper and skydiver Felix Baumgartner is aiming to break a record that has stood for almost 52 years. In fact he is aiming to break four long established records, starting with world's highest manned balloon flight (120,000 feet or 36,576 meters) highest skydive (currently 102,000 feet ) and the longest freefall, which may well see him break the sound barrier as he plummets for nearly 23 miles (37 km) towards Earth. Last week Baumgartner jumped from 71,581 feet in the first manned flight test by the Red Bull Stratos project
, but to reach its ultimate goal the team must beat Joe Kittinger's record for the highest freefall set in August, 1960.
On October 22nd, just a day after the first manned flight of an electric multicopter
took place in Germany, California’s JP Aerospace achieved an aeronautical feat of its own – it broke the record for the world’s highest airship flight. Remotely controlled from the ground, the all-volunteer group’s Tandem twin-balloon airship
reportedly ascended to an altitude of 95,085 feet (28,982 meters). That’s almost four miles (6.4 km) higher than any airship has gone before.
Following on from a successful maiden flight under battery power
in 2010, AeroVironment’s high altitude, long endurance (HALE
) Global Observer unmanned aircraft has now taken to the skies using hydrogen-fueled propulsion. The aircraft reached an altitude of 5,000 feet during the four hour flight on January 11 at Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB) in California. Both the endurance and the altitude of the system will be expanded in further test flights in order to achieve the planned operational altitude of 55,000 to 65,000 feet.
It’s an inspiring story that reminds you how the wonders of scientific exploration aren’t just limited to research institutions with big budgets... in August of this year, Luke Geissbuhler and his seven year-old son Max attached an HD video camera to a weather balloon and set it loose. They proceeded to obtain footage of the blackness of outer space, 19 miles (30 km) above the surface of the earth. Needless to say, there was a little more to it than just tying a piece of string around a camcorder.
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Vulture program
, which aims to develop and demonstrate technology to enable a single high-altitude unmanned airplane (UAV) to operate continuously for a period of five years, has entered phase II. Under the terms of an US$89 million contract, Boeing will develop a full-scale demonstrator called the SolarEagle that will make its first demonstration flight in 2014. The aircraft will have highly efficient electric motors and propellers and a high-aspect-ratio, 400-foot wing for increased solar power and aerodynamic performance.
After AeroVironment’s recent announcement that its Global Observer
unmanned aircraft system (UAS
) had successfully completed a series of Wing Load tests
the team apparently wasted no time getting the craft in the air for its maiden flight. On August 5 Global Observer 1001 took off from Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB) in California and climbed to an altitude of 4,000 feet where it performed a series of maneuvers before landing successfully one hour later.
Unveiled earlier this week in St. Louis, Boeing's Phantom Eye will set a new benchmark in long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle
(UAV) technology when it takes to the skies in 2011. With a wing-span of 150-feet, the hydrogen-powered aircraft will cruise at 150 knots, carry up to 450-pounds and stay aloft at 65,000 feet for up to four days. Boeing calls it a game-changer, and plans are already in progress to build a bigger version that can remain airborne for 10 days.
Later this year, Felix Baumgartner will put on a pressurized space suit and helmet, climb into a capsule suspended beneath a balloon, ride 120,000 feet into the earth’s upper atmosphere, then jump out and – before deploying his parachute – try to break the speed of sound while in freefall. That’s the plan, at least, for the insanely-dangerous Red Bull Stratos event. If successful, it will constitute the world’s highest manned balloon flight, highest parachute jump, and fastest and longest freefall. The team conducted three important tests in the last week of May, that they just released the details of this week. What those tests entailed would probably be hair-raising enough to last most of us a lifetime.
Wind power is notoriously flighty, particularly at ground level. Most turbine-on-a-post wind powered generators operate at around 20-40% of their rated generation capacity, simply because wind is intermittent and changes direction. But a generator situated 500-1000 feet above ground level would enjoy much more consistent strong wind - which is why the Magenn MARS system makes so much sense. It's a helium-filled rotating airship that spins in the wind on the end of a variable-length tether that also acts as a power transmitter, and it's expected to operate at more like 50% of its rated capacity. Each MARS system will be cheap and portable, which will make them extremely useful in rural, camping and emergency situations. A prototype has successfully been flown in North Carolina. A great idea that makes economic sense.