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Aviation SolarEagle rendition by Boeing

Published on October 4th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan

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Boeing Solar Plane (SolarEagle) Could Circle Earth for Years



SolarEagle rendition by Boeing

Apparently, Boeing’s new solar plane could fly around the world for years without stopping. And if you thought (like I did), “Well, what about the need for food and drinks?,” that’s not an issue, since this baby can fly without a human pilot. SolarEagle is the name of this new clean tech creation, and while it may not be as birdlike as Leonardo da Vinci’s ornithopter, it is definitely one of the sweetest flying machines I’ve ever seen.

A few details:

SolarEagle is a solar/electric-powered high altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle system that can provide persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and communications.

SolarEagle is designed with highly efficient electrical motors and propellers, and a high-aspect-ratio wing spanning more than 400 feet for increased aerodynamic performance. The highly-efficient propulsion system and long wingspan will allow SolarEagle to stay aloft for up to five years at altitudes above 60,000 feet.

A SolarEagle “demonstrator” will test SolarEagle’s flight characteristics and is to be built and ready to go by 2013, according to Boeing. It will fly for 30-90 days at the same altitudes as SolarEagle would. SolarEagle is supposed to then be ready for 5-year flights by 2014.

SolarEagle will carry payloads of up to 1,000 pounds, and its potential customers are the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and various telecommunications operations.

SolarEagle was created with with Defense money. Boeing reports:

Vulture II is a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program. Boeing received the $3.8 million Vulture I contract from DARPA in April, 2008. SolarEagle is the second HALE aircraft Boeing is currently developing. In July, Boeing unveiled the hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye. The Phantom Eye is designed to perform similar
missions as SolarEagle, but will stay aloft for 4 – 10 days at 65,000 feet. It is part of Boeing Phantom Works’ rapid prototyping program.

Vulture II is a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program. Boeing received the $3.8 million Vulture I contract from DARPA in April, 2008. SolarEagle is the second HALE aircraft Boeing is currently developing. In July, Boeing unveiled the hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye. The Phantom Eye is designed to perform similarmissions as SolarEagle, but will stay aloft for 4 – 10 days at 65,000 feet. It is part of Boeing Phantom Works’ rapid prototyping program.

My question is, if Boeing can get a plane like this ready by 2013 or 2014, how long will it be until commercial airlines can use solar or hydrogen power?

Image Credit: Chuck Schroeder, Boeing

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • http://solarwindsupermall.com Terry

    How would the solar plane work at night or when it goes around the earth?

    • http://www.zacharyshahan.com Zachary Shahan

      @Terry, it stores up enough energy in the daytime, i imagine. also, if it is flying at a decent speed and in the right direction, it may not see much nighttime…

  • http://www.leonardoshands.com Ben Sweeney

    Great article… if you would like to see the replice Leonardo Flying Machine that Intel Pentium used in early 1990′s go to youtube… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQbk2ruDrK4

    and if you would like to see Leonardo’s Lost Robot Knight go to my website http://www.leonardoshands.com

    all the best, ben sweeney

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