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Pathfinder Plus

In 1998, Pathfinder was upgraded to become the Pathfinder Plus, with a new center wing panel, which increased the wingspan to 121 feet. New high-efficiency solar cells were fitted and many other improvements made, before making a maiden flight in June. On August 6, 1998, Pathfinder Plus met its intended goal by flying to a record 80,201 feet from PMRF Barking Sands, Kauai, higher than any other previous propeller-driven aircraft. The Pathfinder Plus was flown on telecommunication missions in June 2002, and again for aerial surveillance of coffee crops in September.

Later in 2002, Pathfinder Plus performed the world’s first telecom demonstrations from 65,000 feet (20km), including high-definition television (HDTV) broadcasts, third-generation (3G) mobile voice, video, and data relays using an off-the-shelf mobile handset, and high speed internet connection. Most recently, Pathfinder Plus was flown at Edwards AFB to perform atmospheric turbulence measurements in August and September 2005, before being retired from flight service.

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