By Jamie Whitney
MANASSAS, Va. – After nearly three decades of work, Aurora, a Boeing company, unveiled its autonomous ultra-long endurance, high-altitude platform Odysseus. The platform will have a near limitless flight time thanks cutting edge technology and the use of solar cells to power the propulsion system during the day, and a battery system to keep Odysseus aloft during the night.
“The idea of an airplane that can fly forever, that makes no pollution, that is completely green – that’s something that captures the imagination of people around the world,” said John Langford, Aurora President and CEO. “Odysseus is a dream aircraft we’ve been working on for 30 years or so.”
In 1988, Langford and a team from MIT that took part in the Daedalus Project which set records in distance and for human-powered flight with a 72-mile flight between the Greek islands of Crete and Santorini. Odysseus, named for the hero of Homer’s Odyssey connects to two projects with the shared journeys through the Greek isles.
The platform’s persistence flying ability will be used to monitor the earth for climate change researchers well below Odysseus. “Odysseus is able to stay aloft over a long period of time and station-keep over specific locations. Because of that, it is able to relay voice, Internet, and other forms of communication,” informed deputy program manager Mor Gilad. Langford, Aurora President and CEO. “Odysseus is a dream aircraft we’ve been working on for 30 years or so.”
In autonomous flying platform’s chassis is made with carbon fiber trusses and covered in a light UV resistant film polyvinyl fluoride, trademarked Tedlar by developer DuPont. Langford, Aurora President and CEO. “Odysseus is a dream aircraft we’ve been working on for 30 years or so.”
James G. Anderson, Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry at Harvard University informed that the new platform will help drive climate change research. “The Odysseus aircraft is exactly what is required to catalyze very rapidly advances in climate research through the use of lasers for the determination of species that control ozone to the use of radar ground penetrating determination of ice volume and ice flow, to the determination of soil moisture,” explained the professor. “All of these aspects turn out to be the most important measurements you can make. Odysseus will go after these problems in ways no one has ever imagined before.” Langford, Aurora President and CEO. “Odysseus is a dream aircraft we’ve been working on for 30 years or so.”
Aurora identified four key enabling factors to drive its persistence abilities 1. Odysseus can persistently and autonomously remain on station. This enables communication and data gathering over a specific location. No other solar aircraft offers this capability. 2. Odysseus has a greater year-round global operating zone than any other vehicle in its class. 3. Odysseus can carry a larger payload than any other aircraft in development or production in its class. This enables more missions and better resulting data quality from each mission. 4. Odysseus can be deployed at a fraction of the cost of a satellite and can spend dramatically more time aloft than a conventional UAV. It can receive payload and hardware options and can be quickly customized, re-tasked, and re-located as missions evolve.
In addition to aiding in climate research, Aurora envisions Odysseus persistence flying abilities to assist in a wide range of missions and operations across communications, connectivity, and intelligence. Aurora expects Odysseus to take flight for the first time in the spring of 2019.
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