Aurora Flight Sciences of Manassas, Virginia has been awarded a contract by Boeing Defence, Space & Security to design and fabricate structural components for the revolutionary Boeing SolarEagle unmanned aircraft.
Aurora will design and fabricate the ribs and skins for the 400-foot (~120-metre) long wing and the solar-collection panels. The work includes components for both a subscale test article and a flight demonstrator.
“Aurora will have to push the limits of materials and the imagination to create answers to the demanding requirements of this very large—yet gossamer—aircraft,” said Tom Clancy, vice president and chief technology officer of Aurora Flight Sciences.
The SolarEagle is being developed under the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Vulture program. During testing, the SolarEagle demonstrator will fly at altitudes above 60,000 feet (~18,000 metres) for 30 days, harvesting energy during the day that will be stored in fuel cells and used to provide power through the night. Aircraft that can stay aloft for extended periods can function as pseudo-satellites for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and for communications applications.
Aurora has more than 20 years of experience with gossamer aircraft. The company’s background in human-powered aircraft directly translates to the current lightly-loaded, low Reynolds number, solar-powered airplanes. Aurora recently converted one of its early human-powered aircraft into a solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).