Airbus’ solar-powered Zephyr S HAPS (High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite) has set a new record for the longest flight by an unmanned aircraft, staying in the air for 25 days, 23 hours, and 57 minutes after taking off from Arizona on July 11. It broke the record set by another Zephyr variant, which flew for 14 days and 21 minutes in 2010.
The Zephyr S HAPS is a high-altitude aircraft with an approximate ceiling of 70,000 feet. It features a 25-meter (82 foot) wingspan, which allows for a high aspect ratio wing design. The aircraft weighs 75 kilograms (165 pounds). Airbus said it provides “local satellite-like services,” claiming that the aircraft can carry a payload about five times its weight.
“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,” said Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus. “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.”
The Zephyr S HAPS’s two propellers are a motor driven and rely entirely on solar power. At night, the aircraft harnesses power from its on-board battery, which was charged during the day.
Zephyr S HAPS provides continuous surveillance, communications, and monitoring services across areas of tens of thousands of square kilometers. Airbus has developed proven high-resolution imaging and high bandwidth communication services and is developing even more capable payloads to further improve the range and value of services available.
Featured image from Wired