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仰望那连飞5年,永不落地的无人机【亚博APP安全有保障】

2021-03-25 

本文摘要:While much of the nascent civilian unmanned aircraft industry looks at ways to optimize small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for specific tasks such facility security, infrastructure inspection, or precision agriculture, a New Mexico-based aerospace startup is thinking bigger and longer-term.眼下,当尚处襁褓中的民用无人机行业还在设法优化小型无人机(UAS),以继续执行设备安保、基础设施监控或精准农业之类的特定任务时,一家坐落于美国新墨西哥州的航空初创企业却早已有了更加宏伟、更加长年的规划。

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While much of the nascent civilian unmanned aircraft industry looks at ways to optimize small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for specific tasks such facility security, infrastructure inspection, or precision agriculture, a New Mexico-based aerospace startup is thinking bigger and longer-term.眼下,当尚处襁褓中的民用无人机行业还在设法优化小型无人机(UAS),以继续执行设备安保、基础设施监控或精准农业之类的特定任务时,一家坐落于美国新墨西哥州的航空初创企业却早已有了更加宏伟、更加长年的规划。Titan Aerospace, a one-year-old venture-backed aircraft designer, last week unveiled its Solara 50 and Solara 60 unmanned aircraft. These are two massive solar-powered, high-altitude vehicles the company plans to send aloft for weeks, months, and eventually years at a time without ever having to land.这家公司名为“泰坦航空”(Titan Aerospace),是一家正式成立仅有一年、已获得风投投资的航空器设计公司。

它上周发售了两款无人机:Solara 50 和Solara 60。这是两架硕大无朋、靠太阳能驱动的高空飞机,这家公司计划让它们重复使用升空后在空中巡弋数周、数月以后数年,中途几乎须迫降。Titan doesnt refer to these concept aircraft as drones or by the industry-preferred unmanned aerial system, but instead calls them atmospheric satellites for their ability to remain aloft for extended periods of time just as orbital satellites do. The company hopes to provide a sub-$2 million platform that governments, private industry, and research institutions can put high into the atmosphere for extended periods of time for a fraction of the cost of a space satellite.泰坦并没把这些概念机叫“遥控无人机”(drone),也不必这个行业所习称的“无人机系统”,而是叫它们“大气层卫星”。因为它们就像轨道卫星一样,能在空中长时间巡弋停留。

这家公司期望将这个售价将近200万美元的平台卖给政府、私营企业和研究机构,让它们只需代价卫星成本的九牛一毛,就能在大气层享有自己的航天器。The idea is that an atmospheric satellite can conduct most of the same operations as an orbital one: atmospheric observation and weather monitoring, communications relay, oceanographic research, and earth imaging. Other operations are impractical for space satellites, such as border security, maritime traffic monitoring and anti-piracy operations, disaster response, or agricultural observation. And with continuous flight time of up to five years, Solaras aircraft would have endurance on par with many small satellites, making them a more attractive option for a range of these applications (not to mention that if a sensor or instrument goes down, you can land and relaunch).这家公司的理念是,这样一台大气层卫星就能继续执行轨道卫星的绝大多数任务:大气观测和天气监测,通讯转播,海洋研究和地球光学。

而它所能已完成的其他任务则是空间卫星无能为力的,比如边境安保、海上交通监控,压制海盗行动,灾害号召以及农业观测。另外,Solara的续航时间宽约五年,使用寿命和很多小型卫星不相上下,使它们对上述应用于来说出了一个极具吸引力的自由选择(更加别提如果传感器或是仪表怕了,还能让它们迫降,然后新的升空升空)。

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If you have to go up to the satellite and rent that service, thats a lot of money, says Dustin Sanders, Titans chief electrical engineer. And launching a satellite, that can be in the billions of dollars. Were trying to do a single-million-dollar-per-aircraft platform. And the operation cost is almost nothing -- youre paying some dude to watch the payload and make sure the aircraft doesnt do anything stupid.泰坦首席电气工程师达斯汀桑德斯说道:“租给卫星服务要花费巨资。发射卫星也不会斥资数十亿美元。而我们要研发的是每台航空器仅有百万美元级的平台,而且这个平台的运营成本完全为零——只必须花不多的钱就能理解实际载荷情况,保证这台无人机会出有问题。”Other long-endurance solar UAS concepts -- including Aerovironments (AVAV) Global Observer and QinetiQs Zephyr, a demonstrator for a Boeing (BA) concept -- have had little success in generating the kind of long-term atmospheric satellite Titan envisions, but the companys engineers think theyve worked around some of the thornier problems that have grounded previous efforts. For one, 160-foot-plus wingspans of the Solara 50 and Solara 60 will be covered edge-to-edge with advanced solar cell technology that will provide enough energy for both day and night flight (batteries will store power during the day for use at night) with enough left over to power up to 70 pounds of sensors and instruments.而其他长航太阳能概念无人机——还包括航空环境公司(Aerovironment)的“全球观察者”(Global Observer)和奎奈蒂克公司(一家英国国防科技公司——学术著作)为波音公司(Boeing)研发的展出概念机“西风”(Zephyr)——都未能用上泰坦设想的长寿命大气层卫星,但泰坦的工程师指出他们早已基于以前的希望解决问题了一些棘手问题。

比如,Solara 50和Solara 60翼展长达160多英尺的机翼上密集覆盖面积着先进设备的太阳能电池板,它们获取的电力不仅充足白天黑夜飞行中所用(电池白天存储电力可供晚上用),还不足以可供重达70磅的传感器和仪器用于。But perhaps the most important part of the formula is not how it will fly, but where. To sustain such long flight durations, the aircraft will operate in an atmospheric sweet spot known as the tropopause, a zone at roughly 65,000 feet (or more than 12 miles) above sea level where winds are generally less than 5 knots. In this relative calm far above any turbulence or weather that would otherwise challenge its flight capabilities, Solara could linger for up to five years, Titan engineers say. It doesnt hurt that the tropopause resides far above the weather that can damage conventional aircraft or, more critically for Solara, block out the sun.不过最关键的或许不是它的飞行中方式,而是它究竟在何处飞。为了保持这么宽的飞行中时间,这种飞行器将在大气层的最佳方位即所谓的对流层覆以飞行中。

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这个区域距海平面大约65,000英尺(即12英里多),风速一般来说大于5节。泰坦的工程师称之为,这个空域比较安静,且远高于湍流或其他不会影响其飞行中性能的险恶天气,Solara可以在其中飞上五年之幸。对流层顶下的天气不会损毁普通飞行器,对Solara来说更加关键的还在于,它不会遮挡太阳,因此在远高于这种天气的对流层覆以飞行中Solara就容易损毁。

With rather simple mechanical systems and enough solar power to run them indefinitely, the thing limiting flight duration right now is the batteries themselves, Titan engineers say, which deteriorate over time and must be swapped out every few years. To prove it, the company has two fifth-scale test aircraft currently conducting test flights and -- pending a round of Series B funding -- will have a full-sized prototype in the air by spring or summer of next year.泰坦的工程师称之为,由于这种飞行器机械结构非常简单,同时还有充足的太阳能驱动它长年运营,因此现在容许飞行中时长的因素就只有电池了。而电池不会随着时间推移而渐渐老化,间隔几年就必需替换。为了论证这个问题,公司现在用两架五分之一大小的试验机展开首飞——同时延期了B轮融资——到明年春季或夏季时才不会让全尺寸机型上天。

By the time the company delivers its first aircraft -- which could happen as soon as the end of next year -- solar cell and battery technology may have improved such that the aircraft can extend their flight durations or carry even more payload, Sanders says. Were focusing on the simplest, most lightweight solution for this and trying not to get overly complicated, he says. Thats really the key to keeping this thing affordable as well as to enable it to stay up there for years.桑德斯回应,到公司交付给首架飞机时——最慢要到明年年底——太阳能板和电池技术或许已大幅提高,可让飞机飞行中时间更长或装载更大载荷。他说道:“我们于是以为了这个目标致力于研发最简单、最轻量化的解决方案,同时希望防止过分变得复杂。

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这才是让这款无人机物美价廉、同时需要不间断飞行中数年的关键所在。”Of course much of Titans success, at least in the U.S., hinges on the FAA clearing the aircraft to fly in the national airspace. While rules governing UAS integration into the national airspace are pending (delivery of a regulatory framework is slated for 2015), the rules attached to larger UAS like the planned Solara are expected to be fairly strict.当然,泰坦能否顺利,最少在美国相当大程度上各不相同联邦航空管理局(FAA)否容许这种飞行器在国家空域中飞行中。目前容许无人机转入国家空域的管理规定还并未实施(涉及制度将于2015年发售),针对像Solara这样大型无人机的管理制度应当不会十分严苛。But Sanders and company arent particularly worried. Titan has been working closely with the FAA through its design process, and anyhow the only part of that multi-year duration the FAA is technically concerned with is the initial climb. Class A airspace ends at 60,000 feet in the U.S.; above that the FAA doesnt regulate, Sanders says (thats roughly twice the altitude that commercial airliners operate).不过桑德斯及公司回应并不怎么担忧,因为在该机型的设计研发全程中泰坦都与联邦航空管理局维持着密切合作。

而从技术上说道,虽然这个机型的飞行中寿命长约数年,但联邦航空管理局确实关心的只是其最初飞行高度的那一段。桑德斯称之为,美国的A级空域最低到60,000英尺为止,多达高度就不是联邦航空管理局首府的范围了(这个高度大约是民用飞机飞行高度的两倍)。But while fitting into the existing flight paradigm is necessary, thats not really the driving idea behind Titan, Sanders says of the young startup (Sanders is 32, founder and CTO Max Yaney is in his mid-30s, and chief operating operator Nick Renold is 24). Thats why the company refers to its products as atmospheric satellites rather than UAS. In a way, Titan is trying to hack the UAS and satellite space by providing something radically different and far more accessible than whats already out there.桑德斯谈到这家年长的公司(桑德斯32岁,创始人兼任首席技术官马克斯雅尼35岁左右,首席运营官尼克雷诺德只有24岁)时回应,尽管合乎现行飞行中管理规定势在必行,但这不是泰坦公司确实的动力所在。

这就是为什么公司称之为其产品为大气层卫星而不是无人机的缘故。在或许上,泰坦是要拿走一种截然不同、比现有产品更容易用于的产品来冲击无人机和卫星领域。We dont want any operating costs, we dont want you to spend thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars just to get the stupid thing certified all the time, Sanders says.桑德斯说道:“我们不期望它带给任何运营成本,想客户为了让一台不像样的飞行器准许飞行中而不时地大笔花钱。”We want something very simple and that doesnt take up all of your time and energy to keep it running. If all you need is one person to keep an eye on the aircraft, that completely changes things. Were trying to change the mindset on how aircraft should operate.“我们想要打造出一台非常简单的产品,它能持续飞行中,需要闲置客户大量时间和精力。

如果只必须有一个人监控飞行器,那就不会让局面完全好转。我们是要希望转变大家对飞行器运营方式的广泛观点。


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