London: The US military will soon have a new
solar-powered unmanned spy aircraft that can fly non-stop for
more than five years.
The aircraft, called SolarEagle, which is being built by
Boeing is designed in such a way that it can soar in the upper
atmosphere for years, constantly sending surveillance and
intelligence information back to the ground.
The US military has already given Boeing an USD 89-million
contract to develop a SolarEagle demonstrator which will make
its first flight in 2014, the Daily Mail reported.
During testing, the SolarEagle demonstrator will remain
in the upper atmosphere for 30 days, harvesting solar energy
during the day that will be stored in fuel cells and used to
provide power through the night, it said.
The aircraft will have highly efficient electric motors
and propellers along with a 400-foot wing for increased solar
power and aerodynamic performance.
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.
"That`s a daunting task, but Boeing has a highly reliable
solar-electric design that will meet the challenge in order to
perform persistent communications, intelligence, surveillance
and reconnaissance missions from altitudes above 60,000 feet."
According to the report, the aircraft`s developer Phantom
Works, Boeing’s research and development arm, is also working
on a fighter-sized, unmanned, advanced technology demonstrator
called Phantom Ray, scheduled to make its first flight in
Its other projects included a hydrogen-powered aircraft
called Phantom Eye -- a High Altitude Long Endurance aircraft
that can stay aloft for up to four days. It is also scheduled
to make its first flight in 2011.