Boeing has signed an $89 million deal with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop an unmanned solar-powered aircraft.
The SolarEagle is being created under the auspices of the Vulture II demonstration program and will have its first 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,” said 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 aircraft’s key technologies such as its power system, fuel cells, and a to-size flight demonstrator before the first aircraft is built will be supplied by QinetiQ NA and other cutting-edge aviation companies. In 2008, QinetiQ broke the world record for flight time when its unmanned solar aircraft Zephyr flew for 83 hours.
Boeing will launch two new prototypes next year, a stealth combat aircraft and a hydrogen-powered high-altitude aircraft.