Soaring to 60,000ft comes easy to the Proteus high-flying research aircraft which is making its debut at Paris this week.

The sleek white aircraft is the brainchild of maverick designer Burt Rutan, and can fly in either manned or unmanned modes on a variety of tasks.

NASA has already agreed to use the aircraft in a number of atmospheric research projects, although the owner of the aircraft, Scaled Composites, says it can be used for reconnaissance, telecommunications relay, commercial imaging and space launch.

The Proteus could be the 21st century's answer to the U-2 spyplane thanks to its impressive performance. It can carry a 2,000lb payload aloft for some 14h.

Since its first flight in September last year, the Proteus has flown more than 25 missions accumulating almost 100h.

Source: Flight Daily News