Solar-powered Zephyr drone sets flight duration record
Airbus Defence and Space’s Zephyr S HAPS (High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite) has successfully landed, after clocking up a maiden flight of over 25 days – the longest duration for a flight without refuelling.
The Zephyr S HAPS is the first production aircraft of the Zephyr programme and took off on July 11 in Arizona, USA and then flew for 25 days, 23 hours and 57 minutes.
Airbus has applied to establish this as a new world record. The company says the maiden flight proves the system capabilities and achieved all the flight’s engineering objectives.
The previous longest flight duration record was also logged by a Zephyr prototype aircraft a few years ago. It achieved more than 14 days' continuous flight – already ten times longer than any other aircraft in the world.
Zephyr is a solar–electric, stratospheric Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). It harnesses the sun’s rays, running exclusively on solar power, above the weather and conventional air traffic. Its aims is to fill a ‘capability gap’ and work alongside satellites, UAVs and manned aircraft to provide persistent local satellite-like services.
The aircraft has both commercial and military applications, including disaster management, monitoring wildfires and oil spills and providing communications to unconnected areas.
Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus, said: “This very successful maiden flight represents a new significant milestone in the Zephyr programme, adding a new stratospheric flight endurance record which we hope will be formalised 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.”