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In the 1980s, Canada's Communications Research Centre created a small airplane that could run off power beamed from the Earth. The unmanned plane, called the Stationary High Altitude Relay Platform (SHARP), was designed as a communications relay. Rather flying from point to point, the SHARP could fly in circles two kilometers in diameter at an altitude of about 13 miles (21 kilometers). Most importantly, the aircraft could fly for months at a time.
The secret to the SHARP's long flight time was a large, ground-based microwave transmitter. The SHARP's circular flight path kept it in range of this transmitter. A large, disc-shaped rectifying antenna, or rectenna, just behind the plane's wings changed the microwave energy from the transmitter into direct-current (DC) electricity. Because of the microwaves' interaction with the rectenna, the SHARP had a constant power supply as long as it was in range of a functioning microwave array.