Autonomous Plane Flying Across The USA


Somewhere between San Diego and South Carolina is an unmanned aerial vehicle attempting to make the first autonomous flight across the United States. The plane is electric and requires a landing and battery swap every hour or so, however the MyGeekShow guys are so far the only non-military entity to attempt such an ambitious flight.

The plane making the multiple flights is a Raptor 140 capable of cruising at 75 kph for about an hour before requiring a battery swap. Ground control is an RV, loaded up with LCDs and radios; as long as the RV is within a kilometer or so of the plane, the guys should be able to have a constant telemetry link.

Already the guys at MyGeekShow have pulled off a 52 km autonomous flight, following their flying wing in a car. Even though a hard landing required swapping out the carbon fiber spar for an aluminum one, the plane making the truly cross-country flight is still in good condition, ready to land on a South Carolina beach within a week.

You can follow the trip on the MyGeekShow Twitter. The guys are pulling off an incredible amount of updates and even a few live streams from the mobile command station.

UPDATE: It crashed. Tip stalls aren’t your friend, and undercambered wings exist. Good try, though.

28 thoughts on “Autonomous Plane Flying Across The USA

  1. too bad they cant get enough solar panels on the wings to supplement the batteries on board to extend the range on sunny days. Anyone at NASA want to donate them some of the really high end solar panels?

  2. Also, flying wings exist too. Not that you can prevent tipstall with those as that is mostly a GC issue, but a flying wing usually has much less parts that can break in a crash.
    Add something like a KF-step and your stall characteristics improve a lot.

    1. @Jason: Why, if you fly over land there is no need to do it non-stop. I think it took that team 5 or 6 tries to cross the atlantic, each time losing the plane if it did not work.
      These guys stopped after the first serious crash, so I think they are in another league altogether.

      1. No need to make it non-stop….except for the fact that landings and takeoffs are the most dangerous part of any flight, which they forgot when they set it up to require both a takeoff and landing….every hour. Fifty plus landings and takeoffs? Something’s bound to go wrong in the aeronautical department. Nevermind the logistics of finding 50 places to land/take off.

        Also, a flight speed that is close to maximum legal ground vehicle speed (which is effectively much lower) because you can’t drive in a straight line) was not terribly bright.

        They should’ve gone for something more stable, efficient, etc. There’s no reason to do the flight at 60mph, either. Drag is a function of velocity SQUARED.

    1. This.

      Form meets function. They are trying to do something with a form not meant for that function. They needed to concentrate on getting it across the USA, but all the extra bs got in the way. A simple helium balloon and a few minor bits of electronics to help guide it would have gone way further. It would have been slower, but it would have made it there with fewer incidents. Hell, it would have made it there at the minimum.

  3. “Somewhere between San Diego and South Carolina is an unmanned aerial vehicle attempting to make the first autonomous flight across the United States.
    The plane making the multiple flights is a Raptor 140 capable of cruising at 75 kph”

    Interesting choice of units (kph) for a plane flying in the USA :P

    1. It’s all part of the conspiracy to teach Americans that there is a set of measurement standards that every civilized country uses, and that if they want to do more than just fight everyone, they’ll have to adopt it. Even Mythbusters uses metric a lot.

  4. How is this an “autonomous” platform ? Sounds like a simple RC toy plane.

    A cruise missle, or any number of other air to air missiles are “autonomous”.
    Get tone, “fox1″…. no longer under human control.

    If these platforms were truly “autonomous”, you wouldn’t need a human!

    1. And missiles even dissamble automously, that’s something an RC plane can’t do it just lands in one piece (most of the time). Having something autonmous is pretty useless unless you involve humans in someway.

    1. Why all the hate? Because they dont have the skill / understanding or patience to even read the guys website let alone get off there fat arses and achieve anything other than create hot air.
      Qudos to the guy , an epic attempt at something that was always going to be very difficult.

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