Imagine the benefits that battlefield commanders or intelligence analysts could derive from an airborne surveillance platform that would carry a 500-pound payload, operate above the range of small arms fire, remain on station for weeks or even years, cost much less than a satellite, and relocate around the globe to a new region of interest within a couple of weeks. Realizing this concept, known as a high-altitude, long-endurance HALE aircraft, is a 10-to-15-year goal of researchers at the Air Force Institute of Technology AFIT. In order to reach this goal, those researchers are following a developmental path similar to the one the Wright brothers used over a century ago by gathering new test data and building theoretical formulations for this aircraft. The brothers discovery that the existing aeronautical data of the day was inaccurate proved key to their success. Indeed, Wilbur Wright even wrote that having set out with absolute faith in the existing scientific data, we were driven to doubt one thing after another, until finally, after two years of experiment, we cast it all aside, and decided to rely entirely upon our own investigations.
Air and Space Power Journal
Shearer, C. M. (2011). X-HALE: Designing the Atmospheric Surveillance Platforms of the Future. Air and Space Power Journal, 25(2), 61–64.