applies solar panels to Pathfinder.
twenty years after MacCready's human-powered plane, the Gossamer
Condor, flew into history, its direct descendants are reaching
In 1995, Scientific American Frontiers was there for the first
high- altitude test flight of the Pathfinder, a 100-foot flying
wing designed by MacCready's company, AeroVironment. Fueled
by a layer of wafer-thin solar cells with the power equivalent
of just four hair dryers, the Pathfinder reached an astounding
"The Eternal Wing," Frontiers checks in again with Bob
Curtin and the AeroVironment team. The next generation
of flying wings, the 250-foot Helios, has been designed by
engineers to reach an altitude of 100,000 feet.
is funding the flying wing project in the hopes that the solar-powered
planes might soon replace more expensive, higher maintenance
satellites. Circling high above commercial airlines, Helios
may one day relay voice, television or Internet signals.
AeroVironment engineers are still tinkering with its control
system, so far the Helios has performed flawlessly.
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