We've seen some interesting solutions to keeping UAVs powered for extended missions, but none so diabolical as actually landing on the enemy's power lines and using their juice to power up. That's the plan behind the Power Line Urban Sentry (PLUS) project currently being run by the Air Force Research Laboratory and private firm Defense Research Associates, and it's already yielded UAVs that can land on power lines and charge in three hours. The project started with attempts to charge by simply flying near power lines, but when that method yielded only micro-watts of juice, focus shifted to actually landing on the lines. The team is planning all sorts of other capabilities for the tech, including navigation systems -- "Power lines are like highways in the sky," says one of the researchers -- and auxiliary surveillance systems that power up when jacked in. On top of all that awesomeness, the team is also working with an outfit called the Center for Morphing Control to disguise the UAVs when they sit on the lines -- so far, they say, they've made a small UAV "look like a Coke can." Test flights are scheduled for 2008, and there's still work to be done on the power line latching mechanism, but whatever -- we want one.

[Thanks, Stuart T., original photo by Bob Fornal]

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Air Force developing UAVs that can recharge on power lines