Boeing's New Spy Plane Will Fly For Five Years Straight

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.