HELIOS project was a part of NASA's ERAST programme (Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology). It was developed by NASA and Californian company AeroVironment Inc. ERAST programme develops pilotless solar powered airplane technology. The HELIOS construction is based upon its predecessors like NASA's solar plane Pathfinder, which was successfully tested a few years prior to HELIOS. Due to its speed HELIOS was able to fly over the same spot for days or weeks, therefore, in the future such aircrafts could substitute communication satellites. In the test flight on 13th August 2001, HELIOS reached the height of almost 30,000 meters. HELIOS was a slow airplane - if you ride a bicycle fast, you are quicker than HELIOS. It was a remotely controlled plane with no crew weighting less than most cars. However, it flew higher than any other plane powered solely by solar energy.
In the future, such planes will also be used for interesting research purposes and missions, such as: Fly through the volcano for the purposes of volcano plume study Fly over the North and South Poles Fly for weeks and months at a time collecting scientific data, which varies according to the sun position or the season of the year Explore conditions on Mars.
History in brief:|
Gossamer Albatros Gossamer Penguin:|
Gossamer Albatross is best known for completing the first completely human powered flight across the English Channel in 1979. The Albatross II was the backup plane for this flight. It was equipped with a DC battery-powered electric motor and flight instruments for the NASA research program. NASA completed its flight testing of the Gossamer Albatross II in April, 1980. More about the "Father of Human Powered Flight" Dr.Paul Mac Cready.| |
Pathfinder was a solar-powered, remotely piloted flying wing aircraft used to demonstrate the use of solar power for long-duration, high-altitude flight. Solar arrays provided up to 8 kW of power at high noon on a clear summer day. Pathfinder flew at typical airspeeds of 25 to 35 km/h. Pathfinder had a 30 m wing span, weighed 270 kg and was powered by six DC electric motors. It was built primarily of composites, plastic, and foam. | |
In 1998, Pathfinder was modified into the Pathfinder Plus aircraft. Major activities of Pathfinder Plus’s Hawaiian flights included detection of forest nutrient status, forest regrowth after damage caused by Hurricane Inki in 1992, sediment/algal concentrations in coastal waters, and assessment of coral reef health. Pathfinder Plus has a 36 m wing span and weighs about 318 kg. Pathfinder Plus has eight DC electric motors, its solar arrays produced about 12,5 kW of power.| |
Centurion has a 62 m wing span and it is powered by 14 brushless DC electric motors. The Centurion first flew in 1998. As with the Pathfinder/Pathfinder-Plus vehicles, the Centurion was further modified with the addition of a wing extension and a fifth landing-gear pod. Solar arrays have provided up to 31 kilowatts of power at high noon on a summer day to power the aircraft's motors, avionics, communications and other electronic systems. Centurion also has a backup lithium battery system. | HELIOS - technical data:|
Wing span: 75, 3 m
Length: 3, 6 m
Wing thickness: 0.3 m
Height: 2 m, without upper blades of the propellers
Wing area: 186.6 m2
Mass: 600 kg - unloaded plane
Allowed mass: up to 930 kg, depends on flight purpose and available energy.
Cargo: up to 330 kg depends on measurement equipment weight.
Propulsion: 14 DC brushless electric motors (the power of each motor is 1, 5 kW) with two blades, specially designed for high altitude flights. The weight of each motor is less than 5 kg. Length of both propeller...