Russian researchers have invented the world's first unmanned solar wing-in-ground-effect vehicle and it is a doozy! If you are wondering what a wing-in-ground-effect vehicle is to begin with, it should be first noted that the vehicle is a cross between an airplane and a boat.
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These contraptions use forward velocity to create lift enabling them to fly just above the surface of the water. They are practical because they move faster than boats but use less fuel than airplanes.
"The device literally floats above the water. There is a screen effect when an aerodynamic cushion is created under the wings of an aircraft. Our wing-in-ground-effect vehicle has long wings, thus it moves along the air cushion itself. In physics lessons at school, the experiment is demonstrated using a tennis ball that hangs in the stream of the air from a vacuum cleaner: it doesn't fall down and doesn't fly up. The same principle is used here", said Alexei Maistro, researcher of the Higher School of Physics and Materials Technology SPbPU, and head of the project.
The engineers from Peter the Great St.Petersburg Polytechnic University have called their new flying boat "Storm-600" and they plan to use it mainly as a platform for recharging underwater drones. They also intend to employ it for patrolling water areas, for conducting search and rescue operations and for cargo delivery.
Solar batteries are installed on the hull and wings of the vehicle allowing it to reach a maximum speed of 200 km / h. As impressive as this is, the researchers plan to increase its potential speed by at least another 100 km / h.
And that's not all! "We installed a laser radar (lidar) on the boat to train the wing-in-ground-effect vehicle to recognize obstacles and avoid them. And the radio radar was also added to increase the range of the vision system to 30 miles", added Maistro.