The past couple of years showcased what drones would look like as technology advances. Drones are no longer small quadcopters used for leisure at parks and homes. Now larger-than-life drones may soon provide the public with a sundry of benefits.
The Massive Takeover
Drones such as the Aquila and the Hawk 30 have wingspans that can compete with standard-sized planes. They stay in the air exponentially longer than their smaller drone family members do as well. This is due to their energy source – solar panels built into the frame of the drone. In theory, these massive aircrafts can convert sunlight into energy while flying. This gives them a method to refill their stores without requiring to land, unlike today’s more common recreational drones.
Plans for the Future
The Aquila and Hawk 30 for instance aim to ‘beam internet connectivity’ to nearby areas. They fly around globally, giving cities under their wing connections. That is, if all goes according to plan. Another massive drone is the Zephyr, who unlike the previous drones, would act as a lower-orbit satellite.
Companies like Facebook and Airbus all want to be the first to create a successful prototype. Tests have started, but obstacles here and there often lead to delays in progress, or suspension of projects altogether.
Feiyun Drone Taking Off
Another drone following the footsteps of these giant drones is the China-based Feiyun. Feiyun, which translates to flying clouds, aims to do just that – fly beyond the clouds. Similar to the previously mentioned drones, it plans to circulate several cities (hence, moving clouds) while providing services to its vicinity.
China is no stranger to the world of drones. Several big names in the drone market originate in China, with DJI being a prime example. It is only natural to see upgrades such as the Feiyun – a larger than life creation, with aspirations just as ambitious.
Stats and Expectations
The Feiyun drone has a similar setup and design as the Aquila and Hawk 30. It has solar panels embedded in its massive wings for mid-air charging. It has two wings and one front rotor instead of the usual four. It looks more like a plane than your average drone, and maybe that is for the best. This gives the Feiyun a more efficient flight capability, helping it reach its purpose.
Like the Aquila, the Feiyun aims to fly beyond the skies into an elevation close to 100 km above sea level. This location gives it a ‘free roam’ capability, since it is beyond the reach of aircrafts. Here, they plan to beam internet connectivity to nearby areas while they fly. This unobstructed view also provides it with solar energy it requires to recharge without frequent maintenance or landing.
Of course, not everything is smooth sailing. Facebook’s Aquila project for instance has received stoppages in the past. These halts in development, while merely temporary, shows the idea of a world with roaming giant drones may still be far into the future. Whether it is a funding issue, failed tests, crew problems, or even underwhelming results, we may still have to wait a while to see these come to cities nearby.
Will the Feiyun drone face similar obstacles? Feiyun aims for similar results as the many others before it. These projects require a little bit of everything: funding, research, and work execution. Many have tried over the past few years, yet they are nowhere near ready. At the most, the ones ahead of the pack have reached flight tests to check longevity. The Zephyr for example has broken the world record for longest continuous flight at 25 days. While 25 days is nowhere near the promised months or years at a time, it is a good start.