Laser-Powered Aircraft Model Tested
A small laser-powered aircraft was demonstrated in Osaka earlier this week. It measures 30 inches in length and has wings like a kite. Power for the plane is provided by a ground-based laser when its beam strikes a disc-shaped solar panel attached underneath the plane.
(Laser-powered aircraft tested in Osaka)
Although the plane uses a battery for takeoff power, it is fully powered by the laser when at altitude. One of the advantages of this sort of plane is that its flight time is not limited by onboard fuel. Researchers believe that there may be applications in some forms of airborne surveillance work, particularly in investigating disaster areas; also, leisure-related applications are foreseen.
Observers noted that it looked like "a kite on a string of light." Commercially available models are at least three years out.
In their 1974 novel Mote in God's Eye, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle wrote about laser cannon that were powerful enough to provide reliable propulsion to space craft.
Read about the first flight of a laser-powered plane. Read more about the Osaka plane here.
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