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.