The U.S. military wants a drone plane that can stay aloft for five years.Boeing, which is building a prototype, intends to test fly its solar-electric drone called Solar Eagle in 2013.The plane could serve as a pseudo-satellite for communications, reconnaissance and Earth-monitoring.
DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is paying The Boeing Co., $89 million to build a huge, solar-powered, robotic aircraft that can carry 1,000 pounds of sensors and other payloads for five years at a stretch.
Solar Eagle is intended to soar 65,000 feet above the planet or higher — about twice the altitude of commercial jet aircraft. From that vantage point, it can serve as a platform for remote sensing, reconnaissance and communications, as well as stage scientific experiments.
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