Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on April 1, 2008
DARPA, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is working diligently on a new type of aircraft that will fly for up to five years. Long flight is nothing new to space, but DARPA is planning the sub-orbital, long-term flight namely for surveillance purposes that are much more easily accomplished from 60,000 feet than from 260 miles, where satellites roam.
“We want to completely change the paradigm of how we think of aircraft,” says Daniel Newman, manager of the Vulture program. “Aviation has a perfect record – we’ve never left one up there. We will attempt to break that record.”
Powering, refueling, and fixing the plane are the hurdles yet to be overcome, but at least DARPA has ruled out nuclear power. At 60,000 feet, they have discovered, there are very few clouds to interfere with sunlight, so solar is hopefully the first option. Which makes me wonder: why haven’t airplanes been supplementing power with solar for years?
As with any defense research, the technology will eventually trickle into private business, so we need to keep an eye on this stuff – especially their work with solar panels. It may be a roundabout way to fund cutting-edge fuels research, but we have to take what we can get. And it’s good to hear someone that works for defense talk about paradigm shifts in thinking. Maybe it will catch on.
(via CNET News)