Airbus is seeking a world record for sustained flight for its Zephyr S, a solar-powered High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS). The stratospheric Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flew a total of 25 days, 23 hours, and 57 minutes before touching down during its successful maiden voyage.
“This very successful maiden flight represents a new significant milestone in the Zephyr program, adding a new stratospheric flight endurance record which we hope will be formalized very shortly. We will in the coming days check all engineering data and outputs and start the preparation of additional flights planned for the second half of this year from our new operating site at the Wyndham airfield in Western Australia,” said Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus.
The aircraft took off from Arizona on July 11 and flew at over 70,000 feet above the Yuma Proving Ground before touching down on Aug. 5, during which it demonstrated its capabilities, including satellite-like services. The new flight record soundly beats the previous endurance record of 14 days that Airbus’ Zephyr 7 prototype set.
Solar power has been making impressive inroads in the aviation industry in recent years. In 2016, for instance, Solar Impulse and its two pilots completed their circumnavigation of the globe, powered only by the sun and batteries in its wings. That flight set numerous world records, including an endurance record for a manned solo flight.
The purpose of the Zephyr is different, however. The UK government and its Ministry of Defence is Airbus’ first customer for the Zephyr S.
The drone can fly above weather and conventional air traffic. It also can provide persistent local satellite-like services, but could also easily be flown to different locations to provide needed services.
Airbus said the Zephyr will offer “see, sense and connect capabilities” for military and commercial customers. The company said capabilities could monitor the spread of wildfires or oil spills as well provide data and observations on climate change.
The Zephyr also could be used to provide communications services. That’s something that companies including Google and Facebook have taken efforts to do in an attempt to spread Internet connectivity to more remote areas.Tweet