The Sail-a-Plane multi-mode autonomous vehicle is a platform that operates as an aircraft for high-speed self-deployment and as a sailboat for long endurance surface operation. Its lifting surfaces act as wings while in flight and sails while on the water. It draws propulsive power from an onboard energy store while flying, and from the wind as a sailboat. Photovoltaic cells and a generator driven by a water-impeller provide control and sensing power while sailing. The vehicle can also convert back to an airplane and takeoff from the water.

Sail-a-Plane is applicable to a range of different sizes and missions, such as maritime surveillance, anti-submarine warfare, electronic intelligence gathering, and oceanographic or meteorological research. Its sailing ability allows it to maintain station in a specified area or follow a search pattern, despite the effects of wind and currents. It can move to a new location as the source of interest moves, or return to base.

Sponsors: ONR, NRL
Program type: 6.2 Exploratory Development
Years: 2003-Ongoing