TheDefense Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DARPA) recently awardedBoeing
a $3.8m contract for the development of a new ultra-long-endurance aircraft as part of the Vulture programme.
The one-year contract covers Phase 1 of the project, which comprises conceptual system definition, formal reliability and mission success analysis and a system requirements review. Additional requirements include conceptual designs for demonstrators.
The DARPA Vulture programme calls for the development of a vehicle that can maintain an airborne payload of 5kW and weighing 454kg, on station for an uninterrupted period of more than five years using a fixed-wing aircraft.
Qinetiq has partnered with Boeing on the project, and aims to contribute by adapting technologies developed and demonstrated in its Zephyr - a solar-powered, long-endurance unmanned aerial system.
At present, geosynchronous satellites orbiting above Earth are the only systems capable of providing multiple years of coverage over a fixed area.