Boeing Defense, Space & Security
recently signed an agreement with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop and fly the SolarEagle unmanned aircraft for the Vulture II demonstration program. Under the terms of the $89 million contract, SolarEagle will make its first demonstration flight in 2014.
"SolarEagle is a uniquely configured, large unmanned aircraft designed to eventually remain on station at stratospheric altitudes for at least five years," explained Pat O'Neil, Boeing Phantom Works program manager for Vulture II. "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."
The SolarEagle is designed to collect solar energy during the day, which is stored in fuel cells to power the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) through the night.
The SolarEagle demonstrator will remain in the upper atmosphere for 30 days during the testing phase.
Boeing also announced plans to develop a full-scale flight demonstrator, including maturation of the critical power system and structures technologies needed for the project.