The U.S. Army and Lockheed Martin have developed the first-of-its kind unmanned solar-powered aerial vehicle. Dubbed the High Altitude Long Endurance-Demonstrator (HALE-D), the solar-powered sky cruiser has been successfully launched at 5:47 a.m. out of the Airdock in Akron, Ohio.
It was able to reach an altitude of about 32,000 feet on its first flight but its developers forward to having it go up to 60,000 feet.
“We demonstrated a variety of advanced technologies, including launch and control of the airship, communications links, unique propulsion system, solar array electricity generation, remote piloting communications and control capability, in-flight operations, and controlled vehicle recovery to a remote un-populated area,” said Dan Schultz, vice president ship and aviation systems for Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems & Sensors business.
Designed to hover 12 miles above the earth’s surface for long period of time, HALE-D will help US soldiers with communications in remote areas like Afghanistan. In such regions, the terrain is too rough and this is one of the reasons transporting the communication equipment is difficult.