NASA is funding an unmanned research aircraft, called Helios, which is run by a Mac.

It's being developed as a flying telecom tower, and was built and designed by AeroVironment. Subsidiary company SkyTower hopes to begin mass production of flying wings in 2003.

The craft will hover far above big cities, such as New York, offering wireless broadband to anyone with a satellite dish, router hub and a service contract.

High flyer The vehicle has a wingspan wider than that of a Boeing 747, is 6 feet high and weighs just 1,850 pounds (see illustration), Interactive Week reports. It flies on the edge of the atmosphere, at an altitude of 100,000 feet, and runs on solar-powered electric motors. It's built to stay in the atmosphere for six months or longer. Each aircraft costs $10 million.

The company hopes to use its Mac-powered craft to offer wireless broadband-access. The vehicle can supply data rates of 1.5Mbps to 125Mbps per second to a single user, the company claims. SkyTower has developed the craft to offer fixed broadband, 3G mobile, narrowband and direct broadcast Internet services.

The company is now teaming up with leading telecom-system providers and regional service-providers. It plans to launch the first telecommunications service in 2003. Agreements have already been reached with multiple telecommunications-service providers to jointly assess and pursue opportunities in their respective regional markets.