DARPA Looking For Five-Year-Flight

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The Defense Department is calling for proposals for a 1,000-pound aircraft that can stay aloft continuously for five years with a 99-percent probability. According to Government Executiveís Tech Insider blog, the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA) issued a solicitation call last Wednesday for the project itís calling the Vulture, after the energy-conserving bird that uses thermals to stay airborne while it waits for more energetic predators to kill something. Just what the military would do with such a creature is anyoneís guess, but itís pretty much narrowed down the performance parameters to virtually ensure the winning bid will be some kind of solar/battery/fuel-cell combination or a robotic refueling system. While the solicitation doesnít specify the type of energy and propulsion system, it does rule out radio-wave-powered aircraft and lighter-than-air vehicles. Tech Insider names AeroEnvironment of Monrovia, Calif., the builder of the solar-powered Helios, as a likely bidder and also says Burt Rutanís Scaled Composites will probably take a shot. Anyone who has an idea is asked to attend an industry day put on by DARPA on June 7 at the Westin Arlington Gateway Hotel in Arlington, Va.