Google recently successfully applied for patent status in relation to a new type of high altitude solar-powered aircraft which it is currently developing.
According to the design schematics, this new breed of ‘solar planes’ will be able to fly for months on end without having to land due to a built-in ability to replenish their power supply on a daily basis and tap into energy reserves which are stored in lithium-ion batteries at night time.
The main purpose of these new solar powered aeroplanes, according to Google, is to provide high-speed internet access to areas where there is no internet infrastructure in place or those places which experience poor connectivity issues. One of the main benefits of such solar powered aircraft is that they will provide 5g hyper-fast internet as opposed to the 4g type which many are used to.
Google’s proposed solar-powered aircraft will operate in similar ways to self-driving cars; operating without the need for on onboard pilot while remaining in communication with each other via wireless systems. These planes can take uninterrupted photos and videos for months on end. By contrast, the current generation of solar powered aircraft, such as the Solar Impulse planes (one of which recently completed the world’s first fully solar-powered around the world flight), can stay in the air for about five days at a time, but need to land in order to allow the pilot to rest (as there is not enough room in the cockpit to fit multiple pilots).
It is believed that in the future Google’s solar-powered aircraft technology will be co-opted for military applications. Incorporating the Google planes’ ability to stay in the air indefinitely combined with existing stealth aircraft technology would prove to be an invaluable asset for long-term spying missions, while also providing an option to provide quick and efficient air support to embattled ground forces without the need for lengthy deployment and travel times.
Following Google’s lead, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are also working on their own solar powered aircraft projects in order to provide their social media service to places where there is no viable internet connection. With Facebook having reached peak levels of saturation in most first world markets, this will allow them to quickly establish new bulwarks without the need to immediately build costly and time-consuming on-the- ground infrastructure.
Arguably the most exciting aspect of this new breed of solar-powered aircraft will be that they are capable of achieving prolonged powered flight without the need for any fossil fuel consumption. In theory, this would bring us significantly closer to a world where we no longer need to use non-renewable for anything. In the meantime, the non-renewable fuels usually used for powering aircraft can be re-distributed elsewhere, making better use of limited resources. Although, with renewable sources of energy such as solar thermal power growing in terms of both popularity and functionality, it is fast starting to look like the days of humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels are numbered.
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