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Great success for TUM spin-off Ascending Technologies:

Quadrocopter sets a new endurance world record

The Quadrocopter on his record flight

02.11.2010, News

Quadro- and Multicopters are used as versatile flying cameras by safety authorities such as the police and fire fighters, but their missions have been limited to about 20 minutes until now. The world record set by TUM graduates Michael Achtelik und Jan Stumpf now demonstrates that long flights are possible. Powered by a laser from LaserMotive LLC, their quadrocopter stayed aloft more than 12 hours.

At the Future of Flight Aviation Center in Everett close to Seattle, Washington, Ascending Technologies’ quadrocopter flew 12 hours, 26 minutes and 56 seconds. It was powered by a laser beam and special photovoltaic cells developed by Seattle-based LaserMotive LLC. "The record flight is in every respect a technological breakthrough. Never before has an electric powered helicopter flown for so long autonomously," said Michael Achtelik, one of the founders of Ascending Technologies GmbH, yesterday after his return to Munich.

The laser technology provided more than 160 watts of continuous power to the helicopter, enough to keep it up in the air and to recharge its batteries, which provide backup power enabling it to leave the power beam for up to five minutes. The engineers also developed the required power management electronics and control algorithms for the quadrocopter to precisely fly autonomously, so that no pilot input was required.

The flight began in the evening of October 27, and the landing was performed in the morning of the 28th. "We were amazed by the precision and reliability of all system components. Everything worked perfectly throughout the night!” said Jan Stumpf, another founder of Ascending Technologies GmbH. “It was a scientifically interesting, yet a little boring experience to be safety pilot overnight. We just had to monitor the telemetry data while the UAV was flying autonomously supported by the laser tracking system of LaserMotive,"

The world record for electric powered fixed-wing aircraft is currently held by the small unmanned fixed-wing aircraft Zephyr from the British company QinetiQ. In July of this year, the Zepyr flew for 336 hours, powered by solar cells during daylight and by batteries in the night. The Swiss researcher and adventurer Bertrand Picard is preparing for a manned solar powered flight around the world in the 64 meter wingspan aircraft Solar Impulse. The current record for an aviation gas powered helicopter stands at 18.7 hours, held by a 2.5 ton autonomous A160T Hummingbird from Boeing.

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