Boeing designs solar plane that could fly forever

Image: Boeing solar plane
An artist’s concept shows Boeing’s solar-powered plane taking off. (Credit: PatentYogi via YouTube)

Aerospace companies have been trying for years to create a solar-powered plane that can fly at high altitudes for years at a time, and now Boeing has come up with an unorthodox design that just might work.

If it does work, that would smooth the way for an application that Facebook and Google are working on as well: sending up high-flying drones that can loiter over a fixed space on Earth to serve as a link for broadband communication services. It almost goes without saying that the concept could have military applications as well.

Last month, engineers at Boeing Phantom Works in California filed a patent application for an electric-powered plane with solar cells covering its wings, including crazy-looking winglets that stick up from the ends. A video from PatentYogi shows off the design, as well as how it could be put to use to deliver Internet, phone and video – even in remote regions where cable can’t be laid.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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