Airbus Defence and Space has announced the opening of the world’s first High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) flight base, serving as the launch site for the Zephyr UAV. It is in Wyndham, Western Australia.

This site has been chosen due to its largely unrestricted airspace and reliable weather.

Zephyr is Airbus’ solar electric, stratospheric Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). It runs exclusively on solar power, above the weather and conventional air traffic. It compliments satellites, UAVs and manned aircraft to provide persistent local satellite-like services.

Mark McGowan MLA, Premier of Western Australia, said: “I am delighted to welcome the Airbus team and their Zephyr project to Western Australia. This is the culmination of almost a year of hard work by Airbus and my Government to bring this exciting and innovative technology to our state. The Zephyr aircraft provides new capabilities to commercial and military customers and will bring an economic boost to the East Kimberley region.”

A new era for Zephyr

Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus, added: “The official opening of the Airbus Wyndham launch site in Western Australia, the world’s first operational HAPS site, marks the start of a new era for Zephyr. We are proud to see Australia become part of the Zephyr operational network. The site is our gateway to the stratosphere and will be the main flight base for Zephyr going forward.”

The Zephyr will be used for both commercial and military applications. Example uses include disaster management, such as monitoring the spread of wildfires or oil spills.

According to Airbus, it provides “persistent surveillance, tracing the world’s changing environmental landscape and will be able to provide communications to the most unconnected parts of the world.”

Popular Science recently ranked Zephyr as one of the most exciting aerospace innovations of 2018.

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