Ruth Mitchell

Member Article

University spreads it wings

One of the region’s major universities has secured a contract to work on a record-breaking 120-metre solar-powered wingspan plane.

Engineers from Newcastle University will help to create the US-based SolarEagle.

The Vulture II programme is being joint funded by the US Government and Boeing, and the plane will be able to fly unmanned and remain in the air continuously for five years, feeding back data from the skies.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is contributing £56m to the programme with Boeing providing additional investment funding.

Professor Barrie Mecrow, head of the university’s Centre for Advanced Electrical Drives, who is leading the project, said it was incredibly exciting to be part of such a major feat of engineering.

He said: “This plane will have the longest wingspan ever – the only thing that comes close is the Airbus A380 which measures in at a wingspan of around 75m. This is more than half as big again – more than the length of a football pitch.”

The team aim to develop a motor that will be four times more efficient than a conventional aircraft engine whilst being able to operate at temperatures lower than the coldest arctic winter.

A demonstration flight is due to be completed in early 2014 and the Newcastle team hopes to have the first two prototypes of the plane’s motors ready to test in the next six months.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruth Mitchell .

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