U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), part of the U.S. Department of Defense will see to the development of an aircraft that will need to land but once every five years. Yes, only once every 5 years! The project is called Project Vulture!
The idea is to create a plane that can operate under its own power, in low altitudes, (still in the stratosphere). In addition during those five years the aircraft is in flight it is expected to perform intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), and communication missions. It’s a big project.
As of now DARPA has taken on only 3 contractors to do the job. These 3 contractors are: Boeing, Lockheed, and Aurora Flight Sciences. Their mission is to create this unmanned aerial vehicle the DARPA wants. So far, Aurora Flight Sciences is the only company to unveil an actual unmanned aerial vehicle concept. It is called the Odysseus and is a lean machine.
The Odysseus, still only a concept, will have the ability to use solar energy to power the aircraft during daylight, and store solar energy to power the aircraft at night. In addition the aircraft will adjust its wings into a Z configuration. This configuration will help maximize the amount of solar energy collected on the surface of the Odysseus. The aircraft must also have the ability to split into three separate planes and is required to be able to carry a 1,000-pound payload.
When split in 3, the planes have a wingspan of approximately 50 meters, or 164 feet, but when connected the wingspan measures “longer than that of three Boeing 767s”.
On Aurora’s team are: BAE Systems, C.S. Draper Laboratories, and Sierra Nevada Corporation to help out. Each teammate will focus on different aspect of the plane. For example, “BAE will focus on payloads, sensors, and concept of operations and employment.”
What can be the Potential use for a plane like the Odysseus? Aurora foresees, “global climate change research, weather monitoring, and regional-scale telecommunications”.
Via Ecogeek and Cleantech.