Sunday, July 13, 2008

Interesting New Specification for Predator UAV: Unlimited Range?

When it is filled to the brim with 600 lbs of 95 octane reciprocating aircraft engine fuel, the Predator UAV has a range of approximately 450 miles. To maintain 24hr surveillance over an area of interest, the Predator flies in teams of 4 aircraft which are controlled from a central ground control station manned by 55 people. They cost about $3mil out the door and more than that to maintain on a yearly basis.

But what would happen to the operational costs of the Predator if they never had to land? An EEStor enabled Predator would have ultracaps inside the wings and solar panels outside the wings enabling the aircraft that was rarely required to land. In addition to losing a sizeable amount of weight, the EEStor's underlying physical dimension flexibility would enable designers to put the energy storage units anywhere in the aircraft, including the wings. So says a source familiar with some of the applications under investigation by Lockheed Martin and EEStor. But if EEStor could enable satellite-like capabilities for an existing fleet of aircraft, what would DARPA do with it's Vulture program which could in fact become obsolete before it even reaches the prototype phase??? Imagine a change in technology happening so profoundly quickly that even the US Dept. of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency is behind the curve.

It's one of the less talked about aspects of EEStor's technology: it's flexibility in terms of physical dimension. Unlike the space requirements of current battery technologies, EEStor will have the ability to create custom EESU's for applications such as the Predator UAV. Need an EESU in an aircraft wing? No problem. Need an EESU in a car door or power station wall or an ipod shaped like a necklace or wristband? No problem. EEStor's promise is not simply enabling storage of energy but doing so with highly customized footprints. Take the modern automobile as an example. For as much diversity as there is in automobile design, one common problem has never been modified much over the past 80 yrs--where to put the internal combusion engine? But with an EEStor, the EESU could literally occupy the bottom 2 inches of the car. Think of all the extra room for additional safety equipment or storage space, etc.

In the coming days, I'll be posting some additional information gained from a source familiar with some of EEStor's discussions with Zenn Motor, Lockheed Martin, Kleiner Perkins and some of the science SME's the financial institutions sent to vet Richard Weir for investment opportunities with Zenn and EEStor. As an appetizer to chew on, this source told me that the GM Volt interview of Lockheed's Lionel Liebman conducted by Dr. Lyle Dennis awhile back was accomplished by subterfuge, ie, Liebman did not know he was being interviewed for a blog article.


Jonathan said...

I changed my mind. I think you are probably more likely to be Ian Clifford than Richard Weir.

Tom Villars said...

I doubt EEStor will have much of a role in aircraft flight for at least another 5 years. The weight is just to high and the concept of using solar to recharge while still in flight may never work for traditional fixed wing aircraft. There just isn't enough surface area to generate the power required.

That being said, I think the military uses of EEStor's technology will be even more dramatic than the changes in transportation industry. For example if rail guns become practical because of EEStor, aircraft carries become obsolete overnight. Rail guns can put up a near solid wall of metal making making it impossible for aircraft, missiles and bombs to penetrate a ships defenses. You might even see the return of the battleship as the premier capital ship of the world's navy as rail guns that can shoot multi-ton shots will be one of the best ways to penetrate rail gun protected ships. Give the shot enough mass, and the defending rail guns can not put enough kinetic energy on the incoming shot to adjust it's course.

marcus said...

All very interesting. There are so many applications to this technology the mind boggles - military one's being the most worrying. However its still hard to get too excited by it all unless we know whether its based on a real product!! Where are these permittivity results??

nekote said...

agree and disagree with tom villars.

Probably not enough surface area for PV to supply enough power for aircraft propulsion for conventional Predator sized craft. However, if willing to scale up, there have already been a number of successful Solar Aircraft . Wing spans of 100 to 200 feet, so far!

ESUs could allow storage of solar energy for use at night.

An alternative that might work - microwave - beamed (up or down) to a drone that flys within "refueling" range (tens of miles?) - and stored in ESUs. Land units or a special "microwave" version of a KC-135 refueling aircraft, so to speak?

As to physical dimension flexibility, I very much agree with that. Prototyping was with 1.143 x .508 cm "elements" that have 100 layers - I guess something like 1.5 to 2 mm in thickness. Reasonable variations on those physical parameters would seem likely to be straight forward, if even necessary.

Tom Villars said...

I think b was trying to say the existing Predator could be modified to meet the mission requirements of the proposed Vulture program. A modification to make the Predator look like the Solar Challenger is really a new project and not just a modification.

Also using beamed power might be viable for commercial systems, but I wouldn't want to be anywhere near the military ground station when they turn it on. Something like that would have a signature so big you could targeted it from a 1000 miles away.

I think you'll get some minor stuff like replacing the batteries on existing missiles and bombs, but I really don't see anything game changing for aeronautics until the weight comes down.

Of course there are the ever hopeful Jules Verne types who will see this as the latest answer to returning airships to the sky. I wish them luck but if airships were such good ideas I think we would have seen more development by now.

ankur said...

I think the idea of EEStor can be implemented successfully ,but it requires lots of hard work and researches.

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