When it comes to engineering, we can say that humans are heavily inspired by nature. Take a look at how we design the airplane – naturally, the Wright brothers wondered just how it would feel like to soar (although they’re far more successful than the legendary Icarus) in the sky without a care in the world, leading to the advent of airplanes. Planes of today, no matter how fuel efficient, still need to land eventually. Is it possible to develop a new form of aircraft that can remain in a perpetual flying motion? After all, hawks and albatrosses tend to soar for hours and even days without having to land. Robotic gliders fashioned in the same manner might go on forever with nothing but winds and thermals, making it a breakthrough for mankind. Imagine the possibilities that open up – cheap remote sensing for search and rescue operations, or perhaps to glide around the enemy’s territory in order to draw up detailed maps of a battlefield.
Of course, indefinitely flying time is still a pipe dream, but theoretically it is possible – the biggest challenge would be to translate such possibility into the realm of reality. Plenty more work needs to be done, and a robotic glider would need to look for thermal clues if it were to remain in flight perpetually.