The Air Force Research Laboratory is investigating how to design micro air vehicles so that they can stay aloft for much longer than is currently possible. Under one novel idea, tiny sensor aircraft in need of a recharge would attach themselves to a power line to restore their batteries and then fly away to continue their mission, New Scientist.com reports. Challenges abound, such as enabling the nimble aircraft to couple with the line without damage to itself or the line and creating a morphing airframe that can hang on the lines inconspicuously without arousing suspicion. The lab anticipates testing latching mechanisms this year, the magazine says.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.