Aurora Flight Sciences awarded contract for SolarEagle UAV

Aurora will design and fabricate the ribs and skins for the 400-ft long wing and the solar collection panels on Boeing's SolarEagle unmanned aircraft.

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Aurora Flight Sciences (Manassas, Va., USA) reported on Jan. 9 that it has been awarded a contract by Boeing Defense, Space and Security to design and fabricate structural components for the Boeing SolarEagle unmanned aircraft.

Aurora will design and fabricate the ribs and skins for the 400-ft/122m long wing and the solar collection panels. The work includes components for both a subscale test article and a flight demonstrator.

SolarEagle is being developed under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Vulture program. During testing, the SolarEagle demonstrator will fly at high altitudes above 60,000 ft/18,288m for 30 days, harvesting solar 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, reconnaissance (ISR) and communication applications.

“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, Aurora’s vice president and chief technology officer. "We are delighted to have been chosen for such an important role. Boeing recognized the value that Aurora brings to the program through our combination of experience in rapid prototyping and our expertise in composite structures.”

Aurora has more than twenty 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 UAV.