A solar-powered unmanned aircraft, designed to operate autonomously as a pseudo-satellite for up to a year at a time, has successfully completed its first stage of flight tests.
Developed by Silicon Valley-based UAVOS, the High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) ApusDuo features dual parallel wings covered in solar panels, with the wings connected by three struts. The 10m wings on the current prototype can be controlled by on-board algorithms, bending to take advantage of weather conditions and deal with turbulence. According to UAVOS, the airframe of the vehicle is made of materials based on carbon fibres and is designed for long-term continuous operation. The final version of the aircraft will be much bigger than the current aircraft, boasting a wingspan of 28m.
With the ability to stay airborne for extended periods of time, HAPS is being developed with both civilian and defence capabilities in mind. UAVOS says the pseudo-satellite can create a network of autonomous repeaters of radio and high-speed data signals over practically any territory. This includes northern latitudes in the summer months, where conventional aircraft are not well suited and low earth orbit (LEO) satellites are limited in their scope of operation.
“By its very nature, this solution replaces low-orbital space grouping and can provide services not available for conventional satellite systems,” said Vadim Tarasov, investor and board member of UAVOS. “Such aircraft can carry out long missions for years barraging in the air currents over the expanses of the World Ocean, over territories with no airfield infrastructure, sparsely populated areas, sea borders, taking and relaying information for both civilian and military facilities.”
The recent test programmes saw the prototype ApusDuo validating control algorithms, as well as take-off and landing protocols, and full-scale verification of HAPS aerodynamics. The video above shows the aircraft being launched by three people sprinting, before climbing and circling the fields below and landing back gently to Earth. It’s not currently known when the full-scale version of the ApusDuo will be revealed.