Feeds

DARPA in search for five-year-mission solar wingship

'Vulture' Enterprise-style stratocruiser compo is go

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The Pentagon's blue-sky technology office has finally announced the three contenders who will take forward its Vulture project.

Counter intuitively, the plan involves no thirsty technology scribblers, nor even shy paparazzi. Rather, the idea is to build a remarkable machine which could do away with the need for certain spacecraft - it would be able to cruise high above the Earth's surface on missions for the US government lasting no less than five years.

The plan for these stratospheric Starship Enterprise-esque cruisers comes, of course, from DARPA* - the place where ordinary bleeding edge kit doesn't cut the mustard. Here's a concept vid of how they think Vulture might look:

(You need Flash and a YouTube-compliant firewall to see it.)

The rough idea is to build an enormous yet feather-light flying wing covered in solar cells. The cells will gather sufficient power during daylight hours to drive the bird - and deliver 5 kilowatts for the payload - around the clock for five years.

That's not going to be easy, and just to round things off the Vulture must be able to lift half a tonne and hold still against screaming stratospheric winds 99 per cent of the time.

The actual nature of the payload isn't specified, but such a craft would obviously be good for communications and surveillance tasks.

NASA's Helios solar wingship before its 2003 prang

Captain Kirk not required on this five year mission.

Thus far, the solar spyplane endurance record is reportedly just two nights (with no payload) in the case of Qinetiq's "Zephyr" testbed.

Zephyr already has a 50 foot wingspan, too, so one might take it that the Vulture will be more on the order of the jumbo-jet sized Aerovironment Helios, or even bigger. (Helios, a NASA-funded prototype, broke up and crashed in 2003.)

Flight International now reports that DARPA has now selected three firms to do initial design studies for Vulture.

The named companies are Aurora Flight Sciences, Boeing, and Lockheed. Aurora says it will give details of its Odysseus concept later this month, and has disclosed that it is partnered with BAE Systems, Draper Lab, and Sierra Nevada for the effort. Lockheed and Boeing haven't yet said who they're working with, but it would be no surprise to see Aerovironment in the lineup. ®

*The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Hello, police, El Reg here. Are we a bunch of terrorists now?
Do Brits risk arrest for watching beheading video nasty? We asked the fuzz
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
EU justice chief blasts Google on 'right to be forgotten'
Don't pretend it's a freedom of speech issue – interim commish
Detroit losing MILLIONS because it buys CHEAP BATTERIES – report
Man at hardware store was right: name brands DO last longer
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.