Aurora Flight Sciences, Boeing and Lockheed Martin will each develop designs for a new aircraft capable of flying unrefuelled for five years.

The three teams were selected for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s Vulture programme to carry out a year-long Phase I design study. One or more of those teams could be picked to build a one-fifth-scale prototype next year in Phase II.

Aurora’s concept, named Odysseus, was the first to be announced earlier this week. Details of the Odysseus design will be unveiled at a Boston press conference on 23 April.

A DARPA spokeswoman confirmed today that Boeing and Lockheed also received Phase I contracts. A separate proposal made by Northrop Grumman was rejected, a company spokesman told Flight.

Vulture aims to break the “infinite-endurance” barrier with an unmanned aircraft that boasts the endurance and reliability of a satellite. The aircraft is required to generate 5kW to power an unspecified, 450kg (1,000lb) payload.