Saturday, April 26, 2008

Aloft for five years

DARPA is developing a plane that can stay aloft for five years.  Of course, they've only solicited designs from Lockheed and Boeing at this point so perhaps it's technologically unfeasible, but it certainly sounds remarkable:
[T]he Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to design and develop an unmanned solar-powered aircraft that can stay aloft for five years. The venture, DARPA's "Vulture" program, would ultimately see a fixed-wing aircraft ascend to 60,000 to 90,000 feet carrying a 1,000-pound payload, produce 5 kW of onboard power and loiter uninterrupted in its mission airspace 99 percent of the time.
I don't have much to add concerning the technology. But it's worthing pointing out that there is an unhealthy tendency to just assume that huge amounts of money get spent on defense research because that's what they do (carry on), but it's hard not to wonder how much something like this costs, and if it's a worthy budgetary priority compared to, well, any number of other projects. 
In the abstract, however, I'll admit that it certainly looks cool.