Skydweller Aero Completes First Unmanned Flight Of Large Scale Solar-Powered Aircraft

Highlights :

  • Skydweller’s successful flight could mark a major milestone for unmanned, perpetual solar powered aircraft to be put to use
Skydweller Aero Completes First Unmanned Flight Of Large Scale Solar-Powered Aircraft

Skydweller, an uncrewed solar-powered aircraft which has a wingspan greater than a 747 and leaves zero carbon footprint, just completed the world’s first successful autonomous/unmanned/uncrewed flight of a large solar-powered aircraft, taking off, flying and landing by itself, without humans on-board or in control, from Stennis International Airport in the United States.

“This is a true, world-changing first in the aerospace industry,” said Robert Miller, CEO, Skydweller Aero, the aircraft’s manufacturer, which claims to be the only global manufacturer of large, autonomous solar-powered aircraft capable of perpetual flight. “Our fleet of uncrewed aircraft will enable a multitude of long-duration missions that support national security and non-terrestrial communications with revolutionary cost savings.”

Skydwellers can be deployed for long-duration missions such as providing continuous aerial overage above conflict zones, surveilling naval activity in contested waters without risking pilots’ lives, detecting drug smugglers and pirates at sea, and tracking wildlife migration and poaching in Africa.

Skydweller aircraft are capable of perpetual flight, staying aloft for 90 days or more, at altitudes of up to 45,000 feet. In contrast, current combustion-powered aircraft, including piloted aircraft and drones, are limited to approximately 40 hours maximum flight time, limited by the endurance of pilots, the amount of fuel a conventional aircraft can carry, and the need for frequent maintenance.

“We are applying cutting-edge, 21st century materials science, artificial intelligence, and software development to an industry that has spent more than 100 years building piloted, combustion-based aircraft,” Miller continued. “This allows Skydweller to leap ahead of heritage aircraft manufacturers in terms of aircraft performance, flight duration, and cost effectiveness.”

Large autonomous aircraft can save lives by removing the need for flight crews to be physically present in hostile or dangerous airspace. For example, a Skydweller aircraft can take off from the United States, fly itself to the South China Sea, and stay in the air on mission for weeks or months before returning home. Additionally, autonomy enables not just traditional long-duration missions, but also new missions that would have formerly been deemed unacceptable due to risk to the flight crew.

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Tony Cheu

Tony is a BSc who has shifted from a career in finance to journalism recently. Passionate about the energy transition, he is particularly keen on the moves being made in the OECD countries to contribute to the energy transition.