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Jun 12, 2017 03:22 PM EDT

MIT engineers have once again proven their knack for innovation and social responsibility with their new drone. The drone can fly non-stop for five days and is designed as a support in disaster areas.

The new drone, which looks like a thin glider with a 24-foot wing span, weighs less than 150 pounds and can fly non-stop for more than 5 days at an altitude of 15,000 feet. More so, it can carry between 10 and 20 pounds of communication equipment.

The MIT engineers, led by R. John Hansman, the T. Wilson Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics; and Warren Hoburg, the Boeing Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, said that the drone is equipped with a 5-horsepower gasoline engine.

When asked why they opted for gasoline instead of solar energy, the team said that a solar-powered drone will not be effective during the winter season. More so, it will not be able to function efficiently if used in areas that are far from the equator, where nights are longer and have little sunlight during daytime.

Hansman also added that if used in such situations, a solar-powered drone requires more batteries. That means they have to carry more weight which will be an added burden. This will also defeat their purpose of building the vehicle - for long-duration disaster relief operations in remote areas. The design is also in accordance to the specifications presented by the U.S. Air Force.

According to Hansman and Hoburg, the U.S. Air Force asked them to design a long-duration drone powered by solar energy. However, they discovered that using solar energy for this purpose is not feasible. So they turned to gasoline as a a source of power.

Aside from disaster relief operations, the team said that the drone can also be used to monitor the environment, especially for wildfires and floodings.

Follows Drones, MIT, Long-duration drones
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