Hugh Pickens writes "Increasingly, the military is deploying unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, as eyes in the sky to scan the ground for targets and threats, especially for missions that are too dangerous for manned aircraft. Now Live Science reports that a new robotic spy plane called 'Ion Tiger' will harness alternative energy to make it more covert and longer lasting than battery-powered or engine-powered UAVs. A 550-watt, 0.75 horsepower hydrogen fuel cell will power the Ion Tiger with four times the efficiency of a comparable internal combustion engine and seven times the energy of the equivalent weight of batteries. When Ion Tiger took flight in October, it exceeded any demonstration of electrically powered flight so far, flying 23 hours and 17 minutes. 'And it carried a 5 lbs. payload to boot — enough to carry, say, a day-and-night camera,' says researcher Karen Swider-Lyons, head of the alternative energy section at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. 'No one has come close to flying 24 hours with a significant payload before.' Another big advantage is the Ion Tiger's reduced noise, heat and emissions. 'Think about lawnmowers or chainsaws — they're really loud,' says Swider-Lyons. 'It's hard to spy on people when they know you're there, so you had to fly them at high altitudes to keep them from being heard.'"
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