双语时事当前位置:英语 >> 字斟句酌 >> 时事美文 >> 双语时事

连飞5年:永不落地的无人机

来源:可可英语 更新日期:2013-09-10 点击:


连飞5年:永不落地的无人机

While much of the nascent civilian unmanned aircraft industry looks at ways to optimize small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for specific tasks such facility security, infrastructure inspection, or precision agriculture, a New Mexico-based aerospace startup is thinking bigger and longer-term.

眼下,当尚处襁褓中的民用无人机行业还在设法优化小型无人机(UAS),以执行设备安保、基础设施监控或精准农业之类的特定任务时,一家位于美国新墨西哥州的航空初创企业却已经有了更宏大、更长期的规划。

Titan Aerospace, a one-year-old venture-backed aircraft designer, last week unveiled its Solara 50 and Solara 60 unmanned aircraft. These are two massive solar-powered, high-altitude vehicles the company plans to send aloft for weeks, months, and eventually years at a time without ever having to land.

这家公司名叫“泰坦航空”(Titan Aerospace),是一家成立仅有一年、已获风投注资的航空器设计公司。它上周推出了两款无人机:Solara 50 和Solara 60。这是两架硕大无朋、靠太阳能驱动的高空飞机,这家公司计划让它们一次性升空后在空中巡航数周、数月直至数年,中途完全无须降落。

Titan doesn't refer to these concept aircraft as "drones" or by the industry-preferred "unmanned aerial system," but instead calls them "atmospheric satellites" for their ability to remain aloft for extended periods of time just as orbital satellites do. The company hopes to provide a sub-$2 million platform that governments, private industry, and research institutions can put high into the atmosphere for extended periods of time for a fraction of the cost of a space satellite.

泰坦并没有把这些概念机叫“遥控无人机”(drone),也不用这个行业所习称的“无人机系统”,而是叫它们“大气层卫星”。因为它们就像轨道卫星一样,能在空中长时间巡航逗留。这家公司希望将这个售价不到200万美元的平台卖给政府、私营企业和研究机构,让它们只需付出卫星成本的九牛一毛,就能在大气层拥有自己的航天器。

The idea is that an atmospheric satellite can conduct most of the same operations as an orbital one: atmospheric observation and weather monitoring, communications relay, oceanographic research, and earth imaging. Other operations are impractical for space satellites, such as border security, maritime traffic monitoring and anti-piracy operations, disaster response, or agricultural observation. And with continuous flight time of up to five years, Solara's aircraft would have endurance on par with many small satellites, making them a more attractive option for a range of these applications (not to mention that if a sensor or instrument goes down, you can land and relaunch).

这家公司的理念是,这样一台大气层卫星就能执行轨道卫星的绝大多数任务:大气观测和天气监测,通讯转播,海洋研究和地球成像。而它所能完成的其他任务则是空间卫星无能为力的,比如边境安保、海上交通监控,打击海盗行动,灾害响应以及农业观测。另外,Solara的续航时间长达五年,使用寿命和很多小型卫星不相上下,使它们对上述应用来说成了一个更具吸引力的选择(更别提如果传感器或是仪表坏了,还能让它们降落,然后重新发射升空)。

"If you have to go up to the satellite and rent that service, that's a lot of money," says Dustin Sanders, Titan's chief electrical engineer. "And launching a satellite, that can be in the billions of dollars. We're trying to do a single-million-dollar-per-aircraft platform. And the operation cost is almost nothing -- you're paying some dude to watch the payload and make sure the aircraft doesn't do anything stupid."

泰坦首席电气工程师达斯汀•桑德斯说:“租用卫星服务要耗费巨资。发射卫星也会耗资数十亿美元。而我们要开发的是每台航空器仅百万美元级的平台,而且这个平台的运营成本几乎为零——只需要花不多的钱就能了解实际载荷情况,确保这台无人机不会出问题。”

Other long-endurance solar UAS concepts -- including Aerovironment's (AVAV) Global Observer and QinetiQ's Zephyr, a demonstrator for a Boeing (BA) concept -- have had little success in generating the kind of long-term atmospheric satellite Titan envisions, but the company's engineers think they've worked around some of the thornier problems that have grounded previous efforts. For one, 160-foot-plus wingspans of the Solara 50 and Solara 60 will be covered edge-to-edge with advanced solar cell technology that will provide enough energy for both day and night flight (batteries will store power during the day for use at night) with enough left over to power up to 70 pounds of sensors and instruments.

而其他长航太阳能概念无人机——包括航空环境公司(Aerovironment)的“全球观察者”(Global Observer)和奎奈蒂克公司(一家英国国防科技公司——译注)为波音公司(Boeing)开发的展示概念机“西风”(Zephyr)——都没能造出泰坦设想的长寿命大气层卫星,但泰坦的工程师认为他们已经基于以前的努力解决了一些棘手问题。比如,Solara 50和Solara 60翼展长达160多英尺的机翼上密集覆盖着先进的太阳能电池板,它们提供的电力不仅足够白天黑夜飞行所用(电池白天存储电力供晚上用),还足以供重达70磅的传感器和仪器使用。

But perhaps the most important part of the formula is not how it will fly, but where. To sustain such long flight durations, the aircraft will operate in an atmospheric sweet spot known as the tropopause, a zone at roughly 65,000 feet (or more than 12 miles) above sea level where winds are generally less than 5 knots. In this relative calm far above any turbulence or weather that would otherwise challenge its flight capabilities, Solara could linger for up to five years, Titan engineers say. It doesn't hurt that the tropopause resides far above the weather that can damage conventional aircraft or, more critically for Solara, block out the sun.

不过最关键的也许不是它的飞行方式,而是它到底在何处飞。为了维持这么长的飞行时间,这种飞行器将在大气层的最佳位置即所谓的对流层顶飞行。这个区域距海平面约65,000英尺(即12英里多),风速通常小于5节。泰坦的工程师称,这个空域相对平静,且远高于湍流或其他会影响其飞行性能的恶劣天气,Solara可以在其中飞上五年之久。对流层顶下的天气会损坏普通飞行器,对Solara来说更关键的还在于,它会遮蔽太阳,因此在远高于这种天气的对流层顶飞行Solara就不易损坏。

With rather simple mechanical systems and enough solar power to run them indefinitely, the thing limiting flight duration right now is the batteries themselves, Titan engineers say, which deteriorate over time and must be swapped out every few years. To prove it, the company has two fifth-scale test aircraft currently conducting test flights and -- pending a round of Series B funding -- will have a full-sized prototype in the air by spring or summer of next year.

泰坦的工程师称,由于这种飞行器机械结构简单,同时还有足够的太阳能驱动它长期运行,因此现在限制飞行时长的因素就只有电池了。而电池会随着时间推移而逐渐老化,每隔几年就必须更换。为了论证这个问题,公司现在用两架五分之一大小的试验机进行试飞——同时推迟了B轮融资——到明年春季或夏季时才会让全尺寸机型上天。

By the time the company delivers its first aircraft -- which could happen as soon as the end of next year -- solar cell and battery technology may have improved such that the aircraft can extend their flight durations or carry even more payload, Sanders says. "We're focusing on the simplest, most lightweight solution for this and trying not to get overly complicated," he says. "That's really the key to keeping this thing affordable as well as to enable it to stay up there for years."

桑德斯表示,到公司交付首架飞机时——最快要到明年年底——太阳能板和电池技术也许已大幅提高,可让飞机飞行时间更长或携带更大载荷。他说:“我们正为了这个目标致力于开发最简单、最轻量化的解决方案,同时努力避免过分复杂化。这才是让这款无人机物美价廉、同时能够不间断飞行数年的关键所在。”

Of course much of Titan's success, at least in the U.S., hinges on the FAA clearing the aircraft to fly in the national airspace. While rules governing UAS integration into the national airspace are pending (delivery of a regulatory framework is slated for 2015), the rules attached to larger UAS like the planned Solara are expected to be fairly strict.

当然,泰坦能否成功,至少在美国很大程度上取决于联邦航空管理局(FAA)是否允许这种飞行器在国家空域中飞行。目前允许无人机进入国家空域的管理规定还未出台(相关制度将于2015年推出),针对像Solara这样大型无人机的管理制度应该会非常严格。

But Sanders and company aren't particularly worried. Titan has been working closely with the FAA through its design process, and anyhow the only part of that multi-year duration the FAA is technically concerned with is the initial climb. Class A airspace ends at 60,000 feet in the U.S.; above that the FAA doesn't regulate, Sanders says (that's roughly twice the altitude that commercial airliners operate).

不过桑德斯及公司对此并不怎么担心,因为在该机型的设计研发全程中泰坦都与联邦航空管理局保持着密切合作。而从技术上说,虽然这个机型的飞行寿命长达数年,但联邦航空管理局真正关心的只是其最初爬升的那一段。桑德斯称,美国的A级空域最高到60,000英尺为止,超过高度就不是联邦航空管理局管辖的范围了(这个高度大概是民用飞机飞行高度的两倍)。

But while fitting into the existing flight paradigm is necessary, that's not really the driving idea behind Titan, Sanders says of the young startup (Sanders is 32, founder and CTO Max Yaney is in his mid-30s, and chief operating operator Nick Renold is 24). That's why the company refers to its products as atmospheric satellites rather than UAS. In a way, Titan is trying to hack the UAS and satellite space by providing something radically different and far more accessible than what's already out there.

桑德斯谈及这家年轻的公司(桑德斯32岁,创始人兼首席技术官马克斯•雅尼35岁左右,首席运营官尼克•雷诺德只有24岁)时表示,尽管符合现行飞行管理规定势在必行,但这不是泰坦公司真正的动力所在。这就是为什么公司称其产品为大气层卫星而不是无人机的缘故。在某种程度上,泰坦是要拿出一种截然不同、比现有产品更容易使用的产品来冲击无人机和卫星领域。

"We don't want any operating costs, we don't want you to spend thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars just to get the stupid thing certified all the time," Sanders says.

桑德斯说:“我们不希望它带来任何运行成本,不想客户为了让一台不像样的飞行器获准飞行而不停地大笔花钱。”

"We want something very simple and that doesn't take up all of your time and energy to keep it running. If all you need is one person to keep an eye on the aircraft, that completely changes things. We're trying to change the mindset on how aircraft should operate."

“我们想打造一台非常简单的产品,它能持续飞行,无需占用客户大量时间和精力。如果只需要有一个人监控飞行器,那就会让局面彻底改观。我们是要努力改变大家对飞行器运行方式的普遍看法。”

2014高中常考问题一本全
高中各种考试、特别是高考,经常考什么,你知道吗?《高中常考问题一本全》给你答案。本书不光告诉你“考什么,怎么考”,更传授解决问题的方法——“问题诊断学习法”。 《试题调研》七彩梦想系列-2014《常考问题一本全》......查看详情>>

上一篇:100个国外常见公共标志的英文表达
下一篇:揭秘:啤酒不会令人发胖,饭菜才是真凶