Solar-powered Odysseus

A new shape in the skies in 2019 will be the Odysseus solar-powered aircraft.
Aurora Flight Sciences

Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences has announced it is planning to ly a solar-powered autonomous aircraft in 2019 called Odysseus, described by the company as “an ultra-long endurance, highaltitude platform built for groundbreaking persistence”.

Odysseus will use what Aurora describes as “advanced solar cells” installed on the surfaces of the long wings and fuselage in combination with a lightweight carbon-ibre airframe covered by a UV-resistant ilm called Tevlar. The result is an aircraft able to operate at high altitude and ofer data-gathering persistence over a speciic location. Aurora Flight Sciences said the aircraft will ofer a greater yearround global operating zone and a larger payload than any other vehicle in its high-altitude, longendurance (HALE) class.

The company said: “Odysseus can be deployed at a fraction of the cost of a satellite and can spend dramatically more time aloft than a conventional UAV. It can receive payload and hardware options and can be quickly customised, re-tasked and relocated as missions evolve.”

Odysseus is primarily intended to ofer a platform for climate and weather research, with potential applications including the measurement of vegetation, ice coverage and soil moisture, as well as weather and storm monitoring. The company added that the system will also be capable of undertaking “a range of missions and operations across communication, connectivity and intelligence”.

Odysseus is one of several new HALE systems either lying or in development. In early 2018, the Airbus Zephyr HAPS system set a new endurance record and in early December the same year a new launch base for the system was opened at Wyndham in Western Australia. Separately, BAE Systems and Prismatic are due to ly their jointly developed PHASA-35 in 2019, while the Californian start-up developer UAVOS recently lew a prototype of its ApusDuo HALE system.