Company Announces Solar-Powered Autonomous Aircraft

Named Odysseus, it is described by the Boeing-owned company as "a groundbreaking persistence aircraft inspired by the need for climate and atmospheric research."

Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing company that develops and manufactures unmanned systems and aerospace vehicles, announced a new, solar-powered autonomous aircraft on Nov. 14. Named Odysseus, it is "the world's most capable solar-powered autonomous aircraft" and an "ultra-long endurance, high-altitude platform built for groundbreaking persistence," according to the company.

The aircraft boasts advanced solar cells and is made of lightweight materials, enabling it to effectively fly indefinitely.

According to the company's announcement, the inspiration for Odysseus was the Daedalus Project, which set records in distance and for human-powered flight in 1988 with a 72-mile flight between the Greek islands of Crete and Santorini. The project was organized and led by Aurora President and CEO John Langford and other MIT colleagues who later founded Aurora.

"Aurora was founded by the idea that technology and innovation can provide powerful solutions to tough problems that affect all of humankind. Odysseus was an idea born out of Daedalus that is now a real solution to advancing the important research around climate change and other atmospheric chemistry problems," said Langford. "Odysseus offers persistence like no other solar aircraft of its kind, which is why it is such a capable and necessary platform for researchers. Odysseus will indeed change the world."

The company argues it is the most capable solution for climate and weather researchers and, with its payload capacity, will provide researchers with long-term, high-resolution observation capabilities. The aircraft's first flight is scheduled for spring 2019.

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