DARPA Vulture


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Boeing Awarded DARPA Contract to Develop Ultra-Long-Endurance Aircraft Technologies

ST. LOUIS, April 21, 2008 -- Boeing [NYSE: BA] has been awarded a $3.8 million Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contract for Phase 1 of the Vulture air vehicle program, an effort to create a new category of ultra-long-endurance aircraft.

DARPA's Vulture program calls for developing technologies and ultimately a vehicle that can deliver and maintain an airborne payload on station for an uninterrupted period of more than five years using a fixed-wing aircraft. Boeing is teaming with United Kingdom-based QinetiQ Ltd. for the program.

The yearlong Phase 1 covers conceptual system definition, and formal reliability and mission success analysis, concluding with a System Requirements Review. It also requires conceptual designs for sub- and full-scale demonstrators.

"Boeing has worked closely with DARPA on a number of innovative programs in the past and we welcome this important opportunity to again team with them to define a new air vehicle system with unprecedented reliability and endurance that significantly extends current aircraft and spacecraft capabilities," said Pat O'Neil, program manager, Boeing High Altitude Long Endurance Systems. "We will combine our strengths in highly reliable aerospace systems development with the unique capabilities of our teammates, QinetiQ, Versa Power Systems and Draper Laboratory."

QinetiQ is currently flying and testing a solar-powered, high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial system for the U.K. Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Department of Defense under the Zephyr Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration. QinetiQ's role will be to leverage the technologies developed and demonstrated in Zephyr for the DARPA Vulture program.

The Vulture vehicle's goal is to be capable of carrying a 1,000-pound, 5-kilowatt payload and have a 99 percent probability of maintaining its on-station position.

The project is a collaborative effort led by Integrated Defense Systems (IDS) Advanced Systems, working with Boeing Phantom Works, Boeing Spectrolab and IDS Space and Intelligence Systems.

Currently the only systems capable of providing multiple years of coverage over a fixed area are geosynchronous satellites orbiting 22,233 miles above Earth. "Such a 'pseudo-satellite' system, like Vulture, could provide compelling operational advantages in terms of persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications," said O'Neil.

Photo Credit: QinetiQ Ltd.



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Sounds like a brilliant idea (Let's just hope this spy-plane technology doesn't end up being used to spy on us Americans)

Aurora Flight Sciences won one of the other awards with a 'not-so-ordinary' design :)

I hope to avoid embarassment and that i did in fact attach the picture (i'm a newbie)


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Thanks for the pic :)

What is the advantage of that wing design over a more conventional layout?
pometablava said:
Thanks for the pic :)

What is the advantage of that wing design over a more conventional layout?

The only thing I can think of is that two of the wing panels might be tilted more towards the sun. But the middle panel would be tilted *away* from the sun. It would seem to be a long way to go for minimal benefit.
AeroFranz said:
Aurora Flight Sciences

"an aerospace company in Virginia" ... seems someone was recently talking of it ... heh =)
Thursday, April 17, 2008
DARPA selects three for infinite-endurance UAS

By Stephen Trimble

Aurora Flight Sciences, Boeing and Lockheed Martin will each develop designs for a new aircraft capable of flying unrefuelled for five years.

The three teams were selected for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s Vulture programme to carry out a year-long Phase I design study. One or more of those teams could be picked to build a one-fifth-scale prototype next year in Phase II.

Aurora’s concept, named Odysseus, was the first to be announced earlier this week. Details of the Odysseus design will be unveiled at a Boston press conference on 23 April.

A DARPA spokeswoman confirmed today that Boeing and Lockheed also received Phase I contracts. A separate proposal made by Northrop Grumman was rejected, a company spokesman told Flight.

Vulture aims to break the “infinite-endurance” barrier with an unmanned aircraft that boasts the endurance and reliability of a satellite. The aircraft is required to generate 5kW to power an unspecified, 450kg (1,000lb) payload.


The VULTURE Air Vehicle Program is an exploratory development program with the overall goal to develop and demonstrate the ability to deliver and maintain an airborne payload on station for an uninterrupted period exceeding 5 years using a heavier-than-air platform system. It is envisioned that this program will, at a minimum, develop and demonstrate advanced reliability technologies for air vehicles. Other advanced technologies may also be developed and demonstrated depending upon the nature of the architectures proposed by Offerors. The Government is not interested in approaches that use either radioactive energy sources or employs any form of buoyant flight for this application.

The VULTURE Air Vehicle Program will research and develop technologies and systems which will enable the Military to deliver and maintain a 1000 lb, 5 kW airborne payload for an uninterrupted period exceeding 5 years with a 99+% on station probability. The architectures selected and the specific approaches taken by the Offerors will determine the range of technical areas that are developed, including, but not limited to, environmental energy collection, high specific energy storage, extremely efficient propulsion systems, precision robotic refueling, autonomous materiel transfer, extremely efficient vehicle structural design, and mitigation of environmentally-induced loads.

The key technology development objectives include: 1) identification of robust system architectures that meet the program goals; 2) identification of efficient systems that allow the program vision to be achieved; and 3) identification and reduction of both major and minor system and subsystem technology risks.

It is anticipated the program will be divided into three phases: 1) conceptual system definition with a supporting formal reliability and mission success analysis, exiting with a System Readiness Review and an option for continuation task; 2) risk reduction development and testing phase to include a Preliminary and Critical Design of a prototype ending with the flight test of a scaled version of the system; and 3) fabrication, assembly and flight test evaluation encompassing an operational demonstration using the design payload.

The initial dissemination of information on this initiative will be the VULTURE Program Industry Day on June 7, 2007. The goals of this meeting are threefold: 1) to familiarize participants with DARPA's interest in Long Endurance Aircraft technology, 2) to identify potential Offerors and promote understanding of the BAA proposal requirements, and 3) to promote discussion of synergistic capabilities among potential program participants. It is our desire to facilitate the formation of strong teams and business relationships in order to develop comprehensive, quality responses to any potential DARPA solicitation.

The Industry Day will be held Thursday, June 7, 2007, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm at The Westin Arlington Gateway, Fitzgerald Ballroom (2nd Floor), 801 N. Glebe Road Arlington, VA US 22203 (http://www.starwoodhotels.com/westin/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=1513).

Pre-registration is required NO LATER THAN 3:00 PM EDST on May 31, 2007 for attendance. The Industry Day will be unclassified and is limited to three representatives per organization. Attendance is not required to propose to any potential solicitation on this topic. Check-in for the Industry Day begins at 8:00 AM, followed by the morning session beginning at 8:30 AM. This session will include the introduction of the DARPA VULTURE Program vision and philosophy, objectives and goals, and invited presentations addressing state-of-the-art foundation technologies. After lunch, the afternoon session will cover acquisition and program schedules, and contract vehicle details.

REGISTRATION INFORMATION: If interested in attending the Industry Day, please send an e-mail, with the Subject line "VULTURE Industry Day Request for Information", to Jake Decoto at Decotoj@centratechnology.com. In reply to your email, you will receive information detailing the registration process, proof of citizenship or permanent resident alien coordination, and logistics of the Industry Day.

Registration is restricted to US citizens and Permanent Resident representing US companies only. Proof of Citizenship or Permanent Resident Status must be provided at least 5 business days prior to this meeting to Jake Decoto at Decotoj@centratechnology.com. Additionally, Permanent Resident must complete DARPA Form 60, "U.S. Permanent Resident and Foreign National Visit Request" (found here, http://www.darpa.mil/sio/documents/DARPA60.pdf) and this completed form must be provided to: sid_international_security@darpa.mil (or fax to 703-696-7475). There will be no exceptions!

INVITED INFORMATION: Attendees may handout background materials of potential technology that may be applicable at the Industry Day during the networking session at the end of the Government briefings. All materials submitted for handout and presented at the VULTURE Industry Day must be unclassified and approved in advance by the organization that funded the research. It is the presenters' responsibility for producing copies and to ensure that the material has been approved for public release by the organization that funded the research.

Inquiries of an administrative nature should be sent to Mr. Decoto at Decotoj@centratechnology.com. (703-276-7702x146)

Technical Point of Contact: Dr. Wade Pulliam, DARPA Program Manager, email: Wade.pulliam@darpa.mil

Point of Contact

Stephen Davis, Contracting Officer, Phone 571-218-4949, Fax 703-807-4952, Email Stephen.C.Davis@darpa.mil

Place of Performance

Address: 3701 North Fairfax Drive Arlington, VAA
Postal Code: 22203

More on Vulture concepts at ARES Blog

Image: Lockheed Martin


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pometablava said:
Thanks for the pic :)
What is the advantage of that wing design over a more conventional layout?

It's called a 'Z-wing', and it incorporates some variable geometry, actually.
One of the fundamental problem of most solar powered aircraft (like Helios) is that they work fine around noon if you're on the equator, with the sun directly overhead. The incoming sunrays are at 90 degrees and your solar cells are very efficient. But if you are trying to fly at 50-60 degrees latitude in winter, the sun goes up much above the horizon, and then for short periods of time. In that case, you are not really capturing much energy. In order to maximize energy absorption, you have to tilt the solar cells almost vertical. This of course kills aerodynamic efficiency, but it turns out you can capture much more energy than you are spending. At night, when you have to minimize energy consumption, the wings are laid flat to get high aspect ratio and good aerodynamic efficiency.
This is in a nutshell the concept behind the Z-wing. For more info, you can find articles in Avweek and Flight International from last week...lessee if i find the links....
here's one:



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*Very* interesting DARPA Vulture Industry Day Conference briefs - thanks Bill Sweetman for a hint


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Boeing Wins DARPA Vulture II Program

ST. LOUIS, Sept. 16, 2010 -- The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] on Sept. 14 signed an agreement with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop and fly the SolarEagle unmanned aircraft for the Vulture II demonstration program. Under the terms of the $89 million contract, SolarEagle will make its first demonstration flight in 2014.

"SolarEagle is a uniquely configured, large unmanned aircraft designed to eventually remain on station at stratospheric altitudes for at least five years," said Pat O'Neil, Boeing Phantom Works program manager for Vulture II. "That's a daunting task, but Boeing has a highly reliable solar-electric design that will meet the challenge in order to perform persistent communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions from altitudes above 60,000 feet."

Under the Vulture II agreement, Boeing will develop a full-scale flight demonstrator, including maturation of the critical power system and structures technologies. Key suppliers for the program include Versa Power Systems and QinetiQ.
During testing, the SolarEagle demonstrator will remain in the upper atmosphere for 30 days, harvesting solar energy during the day that will be stored in fuel cells and used to provide power through the night. The aircraft will have highly efficient electric motors and propellers and a high-aspect-ratio, 400-foot wing for increased solar power and aerodynamic performance.

SolarEagle is one of Phantom Works' rapid prototyping efforts, which also include Phantom Ray, a fighter-sized, unmanned, advanced technology demonstrator scheduled to make its first flight in early 2011, and the hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye demonstrator, a High Altitude Long Endurance aircraft designed to stay aloft for up to four days, also scheduled to make its first flight in 2011.

A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is one of the world's largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a $34 billion business with 68,000 employees worldwide.

image (c) Boeing


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Thanks for that Aerospace America link !!

I used to browse it at our city library, along with eg Icarus, but then the journals subscribed were cruelly down-sized to a couple of shelves...

Happily, though the on-line magazine says 'members only', some of the AIAA articles are open...
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