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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Dec > Dec 19

Spy Planes To Recharge By Clinging To Power Lines

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2007 07:13:34 -0500
Archived: Wed, 19 Dec 2007 07:13:34 -0500
Subject: Spy Planes To Recharge By Clinging To Power Lines

Source: NewScientist.com News Service


18 December 2007

Spy Planes To Recharge By Clinging To Power Lines
by Paul Marks

The next time you see something flapping in the breeze on an
overhead power line, squint a little harder. It may not be a
plastic bag or the remnants of a party balloon, but a tiny spy
plane stealing power from the line to recharge its batteries.

The idea comes from the US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) in
Dayton, Ohio, US, which wants to operate extended surveillance
missions using remote-controlled planes with a wingspan of about
a metre, but has been struggling to find a way to refuel to
extend the plane's limited flight duration.

So the AFRL is developing an electric motor-powered micro air
vehicle (MAV) that can "harvest" energy when needed by attaching
itself to a power line. It could even temporarily change its
shape to look more like innocuous piece of trash hanging from
the cable.

Hanging about

AFRL's initial aim is to work out how to make a MAV flying at 74
kilometres per hour latch onto a power line without destroying
itself or the line.

In addition, so as not to arouse suspicion, AFRL says the spy
plane will need to collapse its wings and hang limply on the
cable like a piece of wind-blown detritus. Much of the
"morphing" technology to perform this has already been developed
by DARPA, the Pentagon's research division. Technologies
developed in that program include carbon composite "sliding
skins", which allow fuselages to change shape, and telescopic
wings that allow lift to be boosted in seconds by boosting a
wing's surface area.

Challenges abound, though. Zac Richardson, a power-line engineer
with National Grid in the UK, warns that if the MAV contacts an
11-kilovolt local power line, it could short circuit two
conductors, causing an automatic disconnection of the very power
the plane seeks.

And, on a 400 kilovolt inter-city power line, it risks
discharging sparks. "It will hang there fizzing and banging and
giving its position away anyway," says Richardson.

"Even kites falling across power lines cause breakdowns," adds
Ian Fells, an expert in electricity transmission based in
Newcastle, UK. "It's an utterly bizarre idea to try to land a
plane on one."

Regardless of the challenges faced, AFRL plans test flights in

[Thanks to 'The Norm' for the lead]

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