Unmanned war machines are out in force in the war on terror. Last year there were 5,000 military robots deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, up from 162 in 2004. And these semi-autonomous robo-warriors aren’t just your terrestrial terminators — they’re taking flight with the help of solar power.
Aurora Flight Sciences has unveiled its plans for an unmanned aerial vehicle that uses solar cells on its wings and body to propel itself and stay aloft for five years for longterm intelligence, surveillance and communication missions, Cleantech.com reports. We contacted Aurora and the folks there were kind enough to send over these awesome snapshots.
Part of the appropriately and terrifyingly named Project Vulture, the Odysseus has a z-wing configuration that can be self-adjusted to maximize the power output of the solar panels while cruising through the stratosphere. Like something straight out of Voltron, each of the three 50-meter wide sections is actually its own self-sufficient aircraft capable of detaching and completing its own mission.
Project Vulture is being run by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Boeing and Lockheed Martin also have contracts under program. Once the first phase of development concludes, phase two will put the aircraft up in the air for an uninterrupted three-month test flight to be followed by a year-long flight.
Imgages courtesy of Aurora Flight Sciences.