Russia Testing Solar-Powered Drone Capable of Multi-Day Flight

Russia is allegedly testing a solar-powered drone that would be capable of staying in the air for multiple days at a time, without landing.

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In June, we reported on Facebook’s success in getting its solar-powered Aquila drone to fly at 3,000 feet and land without issue. Last week, researchers from Stanford and Zurich’s ETH made huge leaps in getting to a proposed 24-hour solar-powered drone flight benchmark. While Facebook’s goal is to use unmanned aerial vehicles to spread internet access across the globe, and Stanford and ETH researchers are mainly interested in a continuous monitoring of the Arctic, Russia’s aims aren’t as clear. However, the country is currently in a trial phase of testing its own solar-powered drones.

According to the Daily Mail, Russia’s LA-252 model will operate at an altitude of 9 to 13 miles. Presumably, the advantage of having a solar-powered drone at heights like that is rooted in bouncing off internet and satellite communications. Apparently, the drone in question is being tested for multiple-day independent flight, and if trials conclude successfully, it is UAVs like these that could replace our current standard of space satellites. If solar-powered drones can manage all the same tasks our space satellites can, why not replace them with these green, cost-efficient versions?

Reportedly, the LA-252 can be used as a repeater, a Wi-Fi transmitter, and general communication device, and was developed by Khimki-based Lavochkin Research and Production Association. According to Vadim Kozyulin, a professor at Russia’s Academy of Military Science, the UAV can operate above the clouds for several days without having to land. Ominously, he allegedly stated that it’s essential to develop means of observation and control.

Now, we’ve been fooled by stories like this before, but with China having set a solar-powered drone altitude world record in June, Facebook’s successful solar-powered flight, and the Arctic monitoring UAV, it certainly seems more than feasible that this is true. We’ll stay tuned to this story as it develops, and make sure to be as informative and evidence-based as possible.