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AeroVironment

AeroVironment is an aeronautics and energy technology company. AV began with the vision of human powered aircraft in 1971 and has expanded over time to include ventures in energy, electric vehicle systems, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Solar Vehicles

Gossamer Penguin – An experimental solar aircraft with a 21.64 meter wingspan and a weight of 31 kg. The longest flight was 3.14 km.

Solar Challenger – The Solar Challenger was first solar powered aircraft to cross the English Channel, flying 262 km from France to England. The aircraft traveled at 64 km/hour maximum and had a 14.3 meter wingspan.

Pathfinder/Pathfinder Plus – There aircraft were developed for and in collaboration with NASA. Both were unmanned and were developed as “atmospheric satellites” to perform atmospheric research. They also acted as communications platforms. Solar was chosen for these UAVs in order to allow them to remain aloft for extended periods. The Pathfinder set an altitude record of 21,800 m (71,530 ft) and often flew for 12 hours at a time. The Pathfinder Plus set a new altitude record of 24,445 m (80,201 ft).

In 2002, Pathfinder-Plus carried commercial communications relay equipment for Japan. It was able to transmit both an HDTV signal and an IMT-2000 wire communication signal from 20,000 m (60,000 ft). This proved its use as an atmosphere satellite and paved the way for future use of these vehicles. Such atmospheric satellites are far less expensive than orbiting satellites and provide enhanced capabilities in some respects.

Helios – This solar aircraft was developed for an in collaboration with NASA. It  was designed to reach 30,000 m (100,000 ft) in altitude, operate for 24 hours, and spend at least 14 hours about 15,000 m (50,000 ft). The aircraft set several records before breaking apart over the Pacific Ocean in 2003.

Sunraycer – Sunraycer is a solar powered race car designed to compete in the World Solar Challenge. It is a joint venture with General Motors and Hughes Aircraft. The vehicle weights 265 kg (585 lbs) and is capable of traveling at 109 km/h (68 mph). The motor is 92% efficient.

GM Impact – Following the Sunraycer, GM, Hughes, and AV developed the Impact, which was an electric concept car that was based on the lessons learned from the World Solar Challenge. The Impact met with much critical acclaim, but was considered a failure by GM. The Impact was the direct precursor to the EV1 and Volt.

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