NetComposites
Airtech

Groundbreaking Laser-Powered Plane Takes Off

15 October 2003

A plane that flies without fuel by riding on a ground-based laser beam has been successfully tested by scientists.

The 5ft wingspan model could lead to the development of pilotless aircraft that can stay aloft indefinitely. Such planes could provide a low-cost alternative to communication and observation satellites.

Robert Burdine, who led the tests at Nasa's Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, said: ""This is the first time that we know of that a plane has been powered only by the energy of laser light. It really is a groundbreaking development for aviation.""

The 11-ounce balsa wood and carbon fibre model has an electric motor driven by electricity generated by panels of light-sensitive cells. During the demonstration flights, which took place inside a hangar, a laser beam was trained on the panels. After the craft was released from a launching platform, it continued to fly lap after lap until the laser was turned off. Beam-powered aircraft that can be flown without the need for fuel or batteries are thought to have enormous commercial potential.

The planes could carry scientific or communication equipment and stay in flight indefinitely. There may also be military applications. David Bushman, project manager for beamed power at Nasa's Dryden Flight Research Centre, said: ""A telecommunications company could put transponders on an airplane and fly it over a city. The aircraft could be used for everything from relaying cellphone calls to cable television or Internet connections.""





Share this story


Related / You might like...

Cobra International Exhibits Product Range at CAMX 2018

Cobra International will showcase a range of composite products at CAMX 2018, including carbon fibre components for the automotive, transportation, marine, water sports and luxury sectors.

Prodrive Develops Process for Recyclable Thermoplastic Composites

UK company Prodrive Composites has developed a process for manufacturing recyclable composite components that can satisfy future end-of-life requirements without any compromise in the performance of the original parts. The company says the P2T (Primary to Tertiary) process not only simplifies recycling, but endows a composite material with the potential to fulfil three or more useful lifetimes.

Elemental RP1 Sports Car Showcases Capabilities of Tailored Fibre Placement

Designers at Elemental Motor have utilised tailored fibre placement (TPF) to extend the use of carbon composites in its RP1 sports car.