Titan Aerospace is developing a solar powered high-altitude plane that could remain in flight for 5 years. The plane consists 3,000 solar panels producing about 7 kW of electricity and scheduled for completion next year.
The goal of building this plane is to keep a payload in flight long-term, presumably in a manner similar to communications satellites. They could be used for surveillance applications such as environmental monitoring, fire monitoring and disaster response, among other things.
The advantages are:
(1) Can be safely brought back down to ground level, so old payloads can be offloaded, repaired, or a new one can be put in place.
(2) Unlike satellites which costs millions and millions of dollars to get them up to the desired altitude, and once damaged or break down they become space junk. Titan's solar plane can be safely brought back, repair and reuse.
(3) Launching satellites into space also produces rocket fuel emissions. These black-carbon particles are the only direct source of man-made pollutants in the atmosphere 20 km above ground, which possess a great potential in promoting climate change, according to U.S.A. Aerospace Research and Program Development Office.