DARPA is raising the rent on innovation with a CONOPS for long-endurance UAV – one that can stay airborne for five years:
The idea is for a small, lightweight plane that would likely carry surveillance or communications equipment and circle at 60,000 to 90,000 feet over a given point for extended periods of time. It would have to be more flexible than a satellite, able to change course and move around the globe. But it would need to be just as hardy, with minimal need for refueling or repairs once it’s in flight. And it needs to be made of lightweight materials that won’t require much power to move, but also won’t break down over time.
It is, to put it mildly, a challenge, said Tom Ehrhard, an expert on unmanned aerial vehicles with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington.
“It is a very speculative project,” he said. “It’s classically DARPA. It’s very, very hard.”
Well. That should get the old creative juices flowing at Skunkworks.
Five years? What requirement could possible drive that?