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This is a picture of the Pathfinder UAV. It was manufactured by AeroVironment. It weighs 540 pounds and has a 98.4 foot wingspan!
Courtesy of NASA

What Do Coffee and Lightning Have in Common?
News story originally written on May 18, 2001

Do they both give you a jolt? Well, that's not exactly what we had in mind! Coffee and lightning are the two subjects that will be studied by NASA's unmanned aerial vehicles or UAV's during the next few years!

NASA has a whole fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles. They range in size from a vehicle that could be held in your hand to runway-operated giants. Their weights range from just a few pounds to 2,000 pounds! They can carry a variety of payload. What they all don't carry is humans. The Unmanned part of UAV means the vehicles are all controlled from the ground. So, maybe playing all of those video games will come in handy someday if you became a pilot who flew a UAV by remote control!

One of these UAV's, the Pathfinder-Plus, will take pictures of coffee plantations in Hawaii. These pictures will tell the growers when the best time for harvesting the coffee beans is, bringing the best flavor to consumers. Coffee is a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. The Pathfinder UAV will help U.S. coffee growers compete in this market! Using a UAV in this survey will also provide for long-duration, high-altitude surveys that human pilots just wouldn't be able to endure.

Another UAV called Altus will explore how lightning forms during thunderstorms. Researchers will chase down thunderstorms in Florida, sending the Altus above and around the storm, while remote pilots stay safely on the ground. NASA hopes that data collected in this study will increase understanding of lightning and storms, leading to better protection of human life and human possessions.

Last modified May 17, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

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