The SolarEagle is Boeing's winning design for an unmanned plane capable of continually flying for five years on reconnaissance and communications missions above 65,000 feet. The solar-powered, propeller-driven UAV will begin test flights in 2014.
The Boeing UAV was the winning bid in a DARPA contest named Vulture II. It's another one of those peculiar projects with high ambitions designed to encourage the next level of technological development. With a goal of flying at stratospheric height for five years, Boeing's SolarEagle only has to achieve a demonstration flight of 30-to-90 days by 2014.
A product of the same Phantom Works lab behind the hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye, this slimmer eye-in-the-sky's actually propeller-driven and uses electric motors set into a "high-aspect-ratio" 400-foot wing designed to capture the sun's rays while providing little drag from the earth's atmosphere. With a 1,000-pound payload it won't be dropping bombs anytime soon, just helping the people who drop the bombs figure out where to put them.