Letters

Letters 05-23-2016

Examine The Priorities Are you disgusted about closing schools, crumbling roads and bridges, and cuts everywhere? Investigate funding priorities of legislators. In 1985 at the request of President Reagan, Grover Norquist founded Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). For 30 years Norquist asked every federal and state candidate and incumbent to sign the pledge to vote against any increase in taxes. The cost of living has risen significantly since 1985; think houses, cars, health care, college, etc...

Make TC A Community For Children Let’s be that town that invests in children actively getting themselves to school in all of our neighborhoods. Let’s be that town that supports active, healthy, ready-to-learn children in all of our neighborhoods...

Where Are Real Christian Politicians? As a practicing Christian, I was very disappointed with the Rev. Dr. William C. Myers statements concerning the current presidential primaries (May 8). Instead of using the opportunity to share the message of Christ, he focused on Old Testament prophecies. Christ gave us a new commandment: to love one another...

Not A Great Plant Pick As outreach specialist for the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network and a citizen concerned about the health of our region’s natural areas, I was disappointed by the recent “Listen to the Local Experts” feature. When asked for their “best native plant pick,” three of the four garden centers referenced non-native plants including myrtle, which is incredibly invasive...

Truth About Plants Your feature, “listen to the local experts” contains an error that is not helpful for the birds and butterflies that try to live in northwest Michigan. Myrtle is not a native plant. The plant is also known as vinca and periwinkle...

Ask the Real Plant Experts This letter is written to express my serious concern about a recent “Listen To Your Local Experts” article where local nurseries suggested their favorite native plant. Three of the four suggested non-native plants and one suggested is an invasive and cause of serious damage to Michigan native plants in the woods. The article is both sad and alarming...

My Plant Picks In last week’s featured article “Listen to the Local Experts,” I was shocked at the responses from the local “experts” to the question about best native plant pick. Of the four “experts” two were completely wrong and one acknowledged that their pick, gingko tree, was from East Asia, only one responded with an excellent native plant, the serviceberry tree...

NOTE: Thank you to TC-based Eagle Eye Drone Service for the cover photo, taken high over Sixth Street in Traverse City.

Home · Articles · News · Features · Spy Drones
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Spy Drones

Harley Sachs - September 1st, 2005

When we first sent men into orbit they reported that the only man-made object visible from space was the Great Wall of China. Now astronauts report that at their altitude of about 100 miles they can plainly observe the environmental devastation caused by humans. Deforestation, the resulting erosion, and coastal pollution are visible from space.
Unfortunately, satellites to monitor these developments are expensive to launch and they orbit the earth about every 90 minutes. It would be better if observations could be made continuously at a lower altitude. Enter the UAV, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
The goal is to develop a drone that will fly indefinitely over a chosen area, sending down pictures to observers on earth. The UAV will be the latest evolution of the unmanned drones first developed by the Israelis in their continuous struggle against Palestinian terrorism. The Israeli drones, controlled from the ground, sent back television signals to pinpoint the sites, for instance, where rockets were being launched.
The Israeli idea was further developed for the U.S. forces and it is estimated that as many as 800 such drones are now patrolling the skies of Afghanistan and Iraq. The drones are so small that they are virtually invisible to conventional radar. Follow the path, for instance, of a helium filled balloon some child has released. It rises higher and higher, but soon your eyes are no longer sharp enough to spot it. That’s the beauty of a drone that’s invisible from the ground and doesn’t risk the life of a pilot or the expense of a slow-flying plane if it’s shot down.
But the ideal UAV must fly indefinitely, circling the target area possibly for months without landing. To fly indefinitely means no refueling. To do that requires solar power.
After the first human-powered airplane crossed the English Channel, the feat was repeated by a solar-powered airplane. Of course, it could fly only as long as the sun provided energy to the panels on the wings.
Now for another acronym: HALE, standing for high-altitude long-endurance. A new HALE drone, built by former UK defense research lab QinetiQ, will push the boundaries for eternal planes a bit further. What it needs to keep flying at night is battery power. As Dr. Rogoyski, a key authority on the project, reports, the key to success of the HALE UAVs is the rapid advance in solar panels and lithium batteries.
If a lithium battery array with a 20% efficiency can be developed, those high-flying HALE drones will be able to stay up indefinitely, able to reach anywhere on the earth in less than 24 hours. Then those drones will be able to monitor crops, drought, and other agricultural factors. Drones are not just for fighting terrorists anymore.
I remember building model airplanes when I was a kid in the days of balsa wood, tissue paper, and propellers powered by a rubber band. My biggest model was able to take off and actually fly a few feet before running out of rubber power. Imagine what it would have been like to fly it on solar power alone.
Of course, that’s what Pegasus is supposed to do. It’s hard to imagine a plane with a wing span of 16m and a light weight of 27kg (that’s 53.3 feet and 52 pounds for the metrically challenged). One person could easily carry it. To achieve that the solar panels must be paper thin, the skeleton of ultra light carbon fibers, and the batteries and the transmission equipment incredibly small and lightweight.
The drones already developed have broken altitude records, flying as high as 94,000 feet, the edge of space. The HALE will fly in the stratosphere. Maybe they should have named it Icarus.

 
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