Unmanned, solar-powered plane tested by BAE Systems

ARLINGTON, Va. A solar-powered unmanned aircraft with a wingspan of 114 feet completed its maiden high-altitude flight in the stratosphere, BAE Systems announced. The plane, called Persistent High altitude Solar Aircraft (PHASA-35), is meant to fly about 32 miles above the earth in the space, in the upper atmosphere between conventional aircraft and satellites.

According to the company, the aircraft's solar-powered batteries are intended to allow it to stay aloft for over a year at a time to provide a stable platform for monitoring, surveillance, communications, and security applications.

BAE Systems also claims it can also offer military and commercial customers with capabilities not available from existing air and space platforms, and could be used in communications networks, disaster relief, and border protection.

The plane is underwritten by Britain's Science and Technology Laboratory and Australia's Defense Science and Technology Group, and built by BAE Systems and its subsidiary, Prismatic Ltd. Its flight trials were completed at the Royal Australian Air Force Woomera Test Range in South Australia.