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Long-flying sun-power plane planned for crop monitoring

A solar-powered plane that could stay aloft for a year, helping California farmers monitor crop production, may be in the skies within 10 years, its developer says.

Lockheed Missiles & Space Company announced Tuesday it has received a $50,000 contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for designing the project, called the Solar High Altitude Powered Platform.

The unmanned 2,000-pound craft would be powered by solar cells during the day and, at night, by fuel cells charged earlier by the sun. It would cruise at 60 m.p.h., 65,000 above the San Joaquin Valley, carrying sophisticated television cameras on its wing.

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