Five year mission

Manassas, Virginia-based Aurora Flight Sciences has been awarded a contract to develop a radical new aircraft that can stay aloft for up to five years.


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) made the award under a program known as ‘Vulture‘.


The objective of the Vulture program is to develop an aircraft capable of remaining aloft for over five years to perform intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), and communication missions.


Aurora’s design is called ‘Odysseus’. The concept uses solar energy to power the aircraft during daylight, and stored solar energy to power the aircraft at night. The aircraft is designed to fly in the stratosphere throughout its mission.


Aurora’s teammates on the program include BAE Systems, C.S. Draper Laboratories, and Sierra Nevada Corporation.


BAE will focus on payloads, sensors, and concept of operations and employment. Draper Labs will develop the extremely high reliability electronics and control systems necessary to achieve such very long flights. Sierra Nevada Corporation is a specialist in autonomous refuelling systems.


Aurora foresees a broad range of potential applications once Odysseus has been proven, including global climate change research, weather monitoring, and regional-scale telecommunications.