– Aerospace Company Develops Drone That Can Fly Continuously For 5 Years (CBS, Oct 7, 2013):
MORIARTY, N.M. (CBS Las Vegas) — An aerospace company has presented its design “atmospheric satellites” that fly at 65,000 feet and provide drone-like services such as live-mapping and monitoring narcotics trafficking.
Titan Aerospace recently offered the Solara series of such drones: which can fly continuously for nearly five years, charging its own battery high above commercial aircraft through the use of solar power. The larger Solara will be 60 meters wide and have the ability to carry about 250 pounds.
Cruising speed for the Solara is about 65 mph, and the unmanned craft will have an operating range of over 2.8 million miles.
The Solara series are designed to be a fraction of the cost of a satellite, but operate many similar tasks, such as surveillance, crop-monitoring, weather and disaster oversight, or any other monitoring that low-altitude satellites track.
The Solara aircraft could cost less than $2 million, according to Forbes, which quotes Dustin Sanders, Titan’s chief electrical engineer, as saying, “We’re trying to do a single-million-dollar-per-aircraft platform. And the operation cost is almost nothing — you’re paying some dude to watch the payload and make sure the aircraft doesn’t do anything stupid.”
Titan Aerospace is based out of New Mexico, and a report from Breaking Defense finds that defense and intelligence customers such as the CIA, NRO and NGA are the most obvious interested buyers. The company has reportedly held preliminary talks with intelligence agencies about the use of the Solara aircraft.
The Solara aircraft can also provide 4G cell phone service for massive areas for reasons such as disasters.