Zephyr sets new flight duration record during maiden flight

Airbus’ solar–electric, stratospheric Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) completes maiden flight of over 25 days, the longest duration flight ever made.

Airbus Defence and Space (Ottobrunn, Germany) announced on Aug. 8 the successful landing of its first production aircraft of the Zephyr program, the new Zephyr S HAPS (High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite). After taking off on July 11 in Arizona, US, Zephyr S logged a maiden flight of over 25 days, the longest duration flight ever made. An application has been made to establish this as a new world record. This maiden flight of the solar powered Zephyr S proves the system capabilities and achieved all the flight’s engineering objectives.

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; filling a capability gap complimentary to satellites, UAVs and manned aircraft to provide persistent local satellite-like services.

According to Airbus, the aircraft is manufactured from carbon fiber and weighs only 75kg. It has a wingspan of 25m – the wings are covered in solar panels which charge the craft’s lithium-sulphur batteries, which enable prolonged stratospheric flight.

“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” says Jana Rosenmann, head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus.

The Zephyr program seeks to bring new see, sense and connect capabilities to both commercial and military customers, offering potential solutions for disaster management, surveillance and communications.

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