September 11, 2007
By Alton K. Marsh
A London-based company, QinetiQ, has maintained its increasing line of successes in the New Mexico desert with solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The latest, a 66-pound, carbon-fiber Zephyr High Altitude Long Endurance UAV described as hand-launched despite its 59-foot wingspan, stayed aloft 54 hours at 58,355 feet. It won't be a record, though, because the secret test wasn't registered in advance with the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the official keeper of world aviation records.
The research vehicle was sponsored by the U.K. Ministry of Defense. It carried a surveillance payload during the flight and on a second flight to 52,247 feet lasting nearly 34 hours. It is powered by paper-thin silicon arrays and survived at night on lithium-sulfur batteries.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
A new FAA policy on obstructive sleep apnea that addresses many of the concerns raised by AOPA is scheduled to take effect March 2.
AOPA and the National Business Aviation Association have jointly filed an amicus, or friend of the court, brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as part of the ongoing legal battle over the future of Santa Monica Municipal Airport.
AOPA worked with the flight training industry and FAA to quickly resolve a problem that suddenly put many rating applications on hold.
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