It seems like a dream! Please can anyone pinch me? Ok, it really isn’t the dream, as Boeing has won an $89 million government contract to build and fly unmanned solar-powered plane that can stay in the air for uninterrupted five years. At first, I kept reading it hours and not years, as I didn’t want to believe it, but then I guess my regression doesn’t work anymore. The aircraft is called SolarEagle and is a part of Vulture II program, which is run by U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. This unmanned solar plane will be demoed in 2014 and it will be an electronic sensor and military communications platform. In the testing phase SolarEagle will stay in the upper atmosphere for 30 days and it will use electric motors and propellers to fly on the solar energy collected during the day.
Pat O’Neil, Boeing Phantom Works program manager for Vulture II, said, “SolarEagle is a uniquely configured, large unmanned aircraft designed to eventually remain on station at stratospheric altitudes for at least five years.” To stay in stratosphere for such long hauls is a difficult task, but taking in consideration that it has a reliable design, it almost becomes sure that it will be able to provide for persistent communications intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in the altitudes above above 60,000 feet.