Persistent Solar-Powered Autonomous Aircraft for Climate Research
On 14 November Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing company, revealed ODYSSEUS, an aircraft powered only by the sun, providing ultra-long endurance and high-altitude capabilities for persistence. Using advanced solar cells and built with lightweight materials, ODYSSEUS can effectively fly indefinitely – powered by clean, renewable energy.
The inspiration for ODYSSEUS started with the DAEDALUS Project, which ultimately set records in distance and for human-powered flight in 1988 with a 72-mile flight, a record that still stands.
“Aurora was founded by the idea that technology and innovation can provide powerful solutions to tough problems that affect all of humankind. ODYSSEUS was an idea born out of DAEDALUS that is now a real solution to advancing the important research around climate change and other atmospheric chemistry problems,” explained Aurora President and CEO, John Langford. “ODYSSEUS offers persistence like no other solar aircraft of its kind, which is why it is such a capable and necessary platform for researchers.”
Key enabling factors that empower the system’s leading-edge persistence include:
• The ability to persistently and autonomously remain on station, allowing for communication and data gathering over a specific location;
• A greater year-round global operating zone than any other vehicle in its class;
• A larger payload than any other aircraft in development or production in its class, enabling more missions and better resulting data quality from each mission;
• Deployment cost is a fraction of that of a satellite and ODYSSEUS can spend dramatically more time aloft than a conventional UAV. It can receive payload and hardware options and can be quickly customised, re-tasked, and re-located as missions evolve.
ODYSSEUS provides a capable solution for climate and weather researchers. With its payload capacity, it will provide researchers with long-term, high-resolution observation capabilities. The platform can measure vegetation, ice coverage and flow rates, and even ground moisture. Weather and storm monitoring during peak seasons become more affordable and accurate because of its ability to track and measure the movement of severe weather events.
In addition to climate and atmospheric research, ODYSSEUS’ persistence enables a range of missions and operations across communication, connectivity, and intelligence. The aircraft’s first flight is scheduled for early 2019.