JUL 2018


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JULY 2018 36 CompositesWorld » Change, better yet, rapid change. is best characterizes the current state of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) design and manufacturing. One big change is the terminology. UAVs are now drones, and drone technology, at one time, almost exclu- sively confined to military missions, are defying limiting definitions and finding use in hosts of cutting-edge industrial, commercial and consumer applications. No longer limited to control by humans on the ground, drones also are shaping the destiny of autonomous technology — what it will be and how it can be used. On the radar: Drones for communica- tion, automation One of the great promises of composites use in drones is as an enabler for persistent, long- duration systems that provide wide-area Wifi Internet access. Ideally, such drones would be solar-powered and able to serve land areas of many square miles with uninterrupted Internet access for weeks at a time. ere are at least two programs pursuing this technology, and results so far are promising, if mixed. One is the work of social media giant Facebook (Menlo Park, CA, US), and the other, a product of the Massachusetts Institute of Tech- nology (MIT, Cambridge, MA, US). Each has built and flown prototypes and aims to achieve FIG. 1 The first of an autonomous WiFi fleet Facebook's (Menlo Park, CA, US) Aquila, an all-carbon-fiber, solar-powered, four-propeller drone prototype shown here during its second flight test, is the drone at the center of an ambitious effort to design and build a fleet of UAVs capable of several months of continuous flight at altitudes of 60,000-90,000 ft (18,290-27,430m) to supply broadband signal to millions of people around the globe who are without access to the Internet. The plane has a wingspan in the range of 110 ft (±34m) and weighs about 1,000 lb (454 kg), much of the mass contributed by its batteries. Source | Facebook Drones: Composite UAVs take flight By Michael LeGault / Contributing Writer First seen in defense applications, unpiloted aircraft development is surging in the commer- cial world, enabled by a host of new material, process and assembly technologies.

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