Formtech Composites steps forward as Zephyr airframe manufacturer

The solar-powered Zephyr operates within the High Altitude, Long Endurance (HALE) sector and was successfully launched on July 9 at the U.S. Army Yuma proving ground in Arizona and completed a flight time of 336 hours.

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Formtech Composites (Leafield, U.K.) reports that it is the manufacturer of carbon fiber airframe components used in QinetiQ’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) project, Zephyr.

The solar-powered Zephyr operates within the High Altitude, Long Endurance (HALE) sector and was successfully launched on July 9 at the U.S. Army Yuma proving ground in Arizona and completed a flight time, yet to be officially confirmed, of 14 days (336 hours).

This 22.5m/74-ft wingspan UAV weighs about 50 kg/110 lb and is launched by hand. It operates by day on solar power, generated by amorphous silicon arrays, and by night is powered by rechargeable lithium-sulphur batteries that are recharged during the day by the solar energy gathered.

Zephyr and QinetiQ provided Formtech Composites a unique entrance into the UAV sector of aerospace and, providing a complete solution from design receipt through to production, the team worked exclusively in carbon fiber from QinetiQ’s original designs, the components being produced to specification and adapted as new innovations were delivered.

“We can offer our clients a one-to-one drawing board to runway solution by maintaining a high level of communication and contact throughout the process,” says Mark Preston, managing director of Formtech Composites, “and the results speak for themselves; in just two years of business our expertise has grown to a level where we are able to supply such a high end client as QinetiQ.”

Stuart Banyard, production manager at Formtech Composites, agrees that the key to the Zephyr project was communication: “With regular meetings and our ability to fast track client adaptations throughout the development stages, we were able to keep to accurate deadlines and strict budget parameters. We are absolutely delighted at the high level of results for Zephyr and wish to pass our congratulations to all the HALE team at QinetiQ.”