Boeing's spyplane development wing won an $89 million contract this week to build the SolarEagle unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, designed to fly continuously for five years at 65,000 feet.
As the winner of Darpa's Vulture II program, the plane really only has to fly for one to three months by 2014, however.
SolarEagle comes from Boeing's Phantom Works, the same design team that brought us the hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye, which will fly at roughly the same altitude for four days. Like its brethren, SolarEagle is a bit odd-looking, but that is mostly because its 400-foot wing is designed to increase solar power and aerodynamic performance.
The plane will harvest solar energy throughout the day, storing energy inside fuel cells that will be drained overnight. It comes equipped with efficient electric motors, according to a Boeing news release.
Just this summer, a Swiss team proved a manned solar-powered plane can fly for 24 hours straight. An unmanned five-year trip will be no mean feat, considering the world's longest-endurance drone, the Global Hawk, can fly for about 40 hours.
Boeing says the SolarEagle will carry a 1,000-pound payload — not enough to hoist a bomb to the stratosphere, but plenty to carry a suite of surveillance equipment.
What? Burt Rutan lost out to Boeing on this? Is there no justice?
This is far more sensible than the "dockable" system designed by Aurora....
Let's hope provision has been made to clean the camera lenses.
A waste of taxpayer's money, not to mention an article written with no research whatsoever.
"It comes equipped with efficient electric motors, according to a Boeing news release. "
wow really? so like, it comes with the motors and everything! sweet.. hopefully they can move that idea to cars so we don't have to ask for engines to be in them when we purchase..
sorry just thought that was funny for some odd reason.
I want to see how they get this thing in the air. I am sure it has to be released somehow from a secondary aircraft.
Burt Rhutan? You mean Skunk Works that originally won this contract and Boeing submitted a rebuttal? Dirk- agreed that this concept is better than a "dockable" Aurora system
ok...staying up for 5 years, do not know about that. But seriously, this is the most awesome thing I've heard all year >:D
GL trying to get something like that to even get off the ground.
Their is plenty of data on asteroids and comets containing frozen water, and craters on earth demonstration that the meter and asteroids have collided on earth.