Helios Unmanned Vehicle

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Helios Unmanned Vehicle

Post  The one and only Gerson on Wed Aug 26, 2009 10:30 pm

The Helios prototype is an aircraft that is designed to meet two specific goals. The first is to have a cruising altitude of over 100,000 ft and the second is to be able to maintain that altitude for extended periods of time. The initial reason for the production of a plane such as the Helios was to study the earth atmosphere at highest above 100,000 ft, but the plane also is being looked at for other uses.
Being able to fly at such high altitudes for a period of months at a time is not an easy task. The Helios achieves this mighty feat by having a wingspan of 247 feet and weights less then your average car (weights about 2,300 lb when at max capacity). To maintain flight for the extended periods that it does, the Helios is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell as well as solar panels on its one wing. During the day, the solar panels supply power to the propellers as well as store energy to be used during the night. The Helios also can run off of the fuel cell if it does not have enough energy stored to run all night or has a problem with the solar panels.
The Helios can be used in a variety of ways, with applications in the military field as well as scientific and commercial applications. The main use of an aircraft like the Helios would be a kind of atmospheric satellite. Satellites today have a host of problems that make them problematic to use. One of these problems is cost. The cost to build the satellite, let alone launch it into space, makes them problematic to use for smaller companies or anyone without loads of cash. The second problem with space satellites is the technology that is on them. When you launch a satellite into space, it will be up there for the remainder of the time that it is in use. This means that the technology on the satellite will soon be obsolete, but will not be able to be changed. Launching a satellite with the new technology would not be cost effective because each vessel costs exorbitant amounts of money to make and launch. A plane like the Helios solves both of those problems with ease. The Helios’ is able to be outfitted with whatever devices a company needs. The plane is then sent into the atmosphere, it can takeoff by itself, and then flies around doing its mission. This already solves the cost of normal satellites because the Helios would cost less to build and would cost almost nothing to launch. If the technology goes out of date, the company could have the plane land, switch out the instruments, and have it take off again.
This also has obvious benefits for military use. Having a plane in the atmosphere at all times makes observation of enemy movement particularly easy. The Helios operates at an altitude that is already 11,000 ft above the previous altitude record, which puts it out of the range of almost all of the enemy’s attacks.
Overall, the addition of the Helios to the unmanned vehicle fleet would be a major plus for every sector from military to commercial. It would also make it very easy to study the high altitudes of the earth’s atmosphere and take data at these levels.
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