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Solar Powered autonomous Unmanned Aircraft is getting ready to serve as an Atmospheric Satellite

by gps4us news 2011-11-09 14:02


Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (NASA)Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology group of NASA researchers pioneered an aeronautic, propulsion and positioning control technologies for new family of high-altitude aircraft which could function as atmospheric satellites. The atmospheric satellites belong to long-endurance unmanned aircraft that will serve as environmental science or telecommunications relay platforms. The solar powered atmospheric satellites are completely autonomous operated by sophisticated guidance system during their long-duration environmental science missions. Using solar energy as primary fuel for their engines, the atmospheric satellite unmanned aircraft relies on an array of electric motors to take off a runway and achieve the high edge of the atmosphere flying the scientific and research missions at lower cost compared to orbiting satellites. 

An atmospheric satellite, should be able to operate and perform majority of the functions which the low-orbit satellite would do in space, but the unmanned aircraft performs these functions flying in the atmosphere using sun for fuel. The electric motors used to lift a remotely controlled airplane off a runway of a conventional airport and pull it to more than 80,000 feet are specifically designed to work for months on a mission to prove an idea that planes like this could fly on end in the stratosphere. As an efficient alternative to communications satellites the unmanned air vehicle relies on its guidance system which is comprised of  navigation, diverse sensor instrumentation, and control platform specifically designed for unmanned vehicles. It controls each electric motor independently featuring small size, light weight, and low power consumption as these parameters are always vital concerns of the unmanned aircraft. 

Unmanned Environmental Research Aircraft (NASA)The high quality GPS autopilot, navigation, instrumentation, control, and telemetry sub-systems simplify the operation of atmospheric satellite unmanned vehicle. With emphasis on tight integration, high reliability, and maximum flexibility, the GPS enabled autopilot platform combines the GPS navigation equipment, inertial gyroscopes and video sensors. With the ability to drive up dozens of servo gears, collecting data from multiple analog and digital inputs for measurement solar panels efficiency, battery power, altitude, air speed it also performs real-time data recording, and has a built-in wireless transceivers in a single integrated package. The autopilot GPS optimization algorithms developed based on a mathematical framework for raw GPS data correction and automatic measurement and estimation of noise statistics, translate the GPS position information received from the GPSS constellation satellites onto the corrected base points on the three dimensional topographic map. 

The fully automated flight based on pre-determined points within a three dimensional virtual space map built and instantly updated in real time in the memory of the autopilot platform becomes a reality. The autopilot GPS enabled guidance platform is serving each motor individually and shares information among array of autopilots efficiently orchestrating synchronized performance of the aircraft fail safe multi-engine solar energy powered propulsion system. The multi-engine propelled unmanned vehicle systems could be also used in diverse fields such as communications, reconnaissance, law enforcement, research and aerial surveillance. The unmanned aircraft are suited for use in high-altitude, long-duration Earth science missions, lifting scientific research payloads to high altitudes and providing long ranges with many months of flight endurance.



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