Odysseus: a Z-shaped solar aircraft, built for DARPA

DARPA, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has set a seemingly impossible task, known as the Vulture program, by calling for an aircraft which can remain in the sky for five years while generating five kilowatts of power for a 1,000 pound payload. The Odysseus by Aurora Flight Sciences, which has been selected as one promising design by DARPA, doesn't appear capable of flight at all to many onlookers. The odd Z-shaped wing is actually three separate machines which can change their combined shape in order to catch the suns rays throughout the day and flatten out at night, when the Odysseus would fly on battery power alone. Together, the three sections would span almost 500 feet. Advanced composite materials and double-sided solar panels are employed to make the concept appear possible. If DAPRA's vision proves successful, aerial vehicles like these could take the place of satellites for surveillance and communications purposes.
[Sources: Flight Global, Gizmag]

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