This high speed, self-driving aircraft is an affordable alternative to satellites

Swift Engineering just developed an affordable alternative to satellites.

In partnership with NASA’s Ames Research Center, Swift created a high altitude long endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial system (UAS). Basically, it’s a self-driving, highspeed aircraft that can operate autonomously at 70,000 feet. 

The 72-foot solar-powered aerial vehicle weighs less than 180 pounds and can safely carry up to 15 pounds. The HALE UAS will be used for upper atmosphere operations like commercial and military surveillance, monitoring, communications and security applications. 

Swift Engineering applauded NASA’s Earth Science Division for allowing the company to use its case studies to design HALE.

“We developed a cost-efficient power and propulsion system that can withstand harsh temperatures, radiation and stratospheric conditions while providing and storing enough energy to enable persistent long-duration flights,” Andrew Streett, Vice President of Technology at Swift Engineering, said in a press release

The HALE UAS completed a successful test flight in July and met all of Swift’s safety and design requirements. The aircraft has already been granted two technology patents and airworthiness certifications from NASA. These along with the FAA’s Certificate of Authorization mean that the unmanned aerial vehicle will be allowed to fly in commercial airspace. 

“The applications of this technology will usher in a new era of data acceleration. Swift is able to deliver what no other industry or defense contractor can provide in the US market,” said Rick Heise, President and CEO of Swift Engineering.

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