Zig-zag shaped solar plane could fly for five years

It's kind of hard to imagine this thing flying at all, really, but the folks over at Aurora Flight Sciences say that their conceptual surveillance craft, the Odysseus could zip around at an altitude of 60,000 to 90,000 feet for five whole years. What you're looking at is actually three separate, wing-shaped craft that take off independent of one another. Once in the air, the 164-foot-long winglets come together and create a single craft with a 492-foot wingspan.

It keeps itself in the air using energy gathered by solar panels, though the team is still trying to decide what to do when the sun isn't shining and are considering fuel cells, batteries and even flywheels.

As for what the Odysseus would be doing on its odyssey, Aurora sees the craft fulfilling diverse roles, from helping monitor the weather to aiding in border control. For it to do that, though, it has to be built: Aurora wants to have a full-sized prototype complete in the next five years, with a hall-sized version already on the way.

PopSci, via Inhabitat