Tuesday, December 18, 2012

No. 670: Developing a large unmanned plane for disaster monitoring capable of flying for three days without refuel (December 18, 2012)

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will start developing a large unmanned plane with a length of 15 m in 2014. The plane is for disaster monitoring and capable of flying for three days without refuel. With a highly energy-efficient engine and a large airframe, it will be able to monitor a large-scale disaster site from the sky. The unmanned plane JAXA currently uses is 1.6 m in length, and it can fly for only 20 minutes. The agency will finish the research on factor technologies and put the plane into practical use by 2022.

The new unmanned plane will be 10-15 m long and 30-40 m wide. Driven by propellers, it will carry a solar battery as auxiliary power source in addition to the highly energy-efficient engine. It can cruise higher than 15,000 m above the sea level and observe the ground surface above clouds using sensors. It will also carry infrared cameras and new radar that can film the land surface night and day with the help of microwaves. In addition, it can carry a receiving apparatus capable of automatic identification of ships in passage. It will fly the sky over the Japanese territorial waters and locate suspicious ships.

A small unmanned plane developed by the JAXA

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