Flapping Solar Aircraft

Due to recent advances in polymers, photovoltaics, and batteries, thedevelopment of a revolutionary type of unmanned aircraft may now befeasible. This flight vehicle would integrate airfoil, propulsion,energy production, energy storage, and control into one seamless designwith no conventional mechanical moving parts. The integration of thesecomponents comprises the "Solid State" aircraft concept that has wideimplication for terrestrial and planetary flight applications.

The most innovative aspect of this concept is the use of an ionicpolymeric-metal composite (IPMC) as the source of control andpropulsion. This material has the unique ability to deform in thepresence of an electric field like an artificial muscle, and return toits original shape when the field is removed. Combining the IPMIC withemerging thinfilm batteries and thin-film photovoltaics provides bothenergy source and storage in the same structure.

Combining the unique characteristics of these materials enablesflapping of the aircraft wing to generate the main propulsive force.With a flight profile similar to that of a hawk or eagle, the SolidState Aircraft will be able to soar for long periods of time andutilize flapping to regain lost altitude.

Source: ecogeek.orgAdded: 9 August 2007