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Farnborough 2018: Airbus showcases Zephyr S
Zephyr production facility. © Airbus DS

Farnborough 2018: Airbus showcases Zephyr S

Airbus Defence and Space has turned the spotlight onto the Zephyr S High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) and has announced the opening of a dedicated production facility.

Airbus Defence and Space has highlighted the Zephyr S High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) at the Farnborough Airshow. The Zephyr S is the first production aircraft of the Zephyr programme, following earlier Research and Development prototypes.

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, and is designed to complement satellites, UAVs and manned aircraft to provide affordable and persistent local satellite-like services.

The company also announced the opening of a dedicated Zephyr production facility in the UK, named after the late Chris Kelleher, the inventor of Zephyr. The Kelleher facility is claimed to be the first serial HAPS assembly line worldwide.

To mark the occasion, Airbus is conducting the maiden flight of the Zephyr S. The aircraft is currently in the air after having departed from Arizona, U.S. “a few days ago”. This flight is being supported by both the UK and U.S. governments.

The UK Ministry of Defence has three Zephyr S vehicles on order. The three UAVs will form part of an Operational Concept Demonstrator (OCD) to assess Zephyr’s capabilities and explore its potential for use by the UK Armed Forces and other Government departments. The OCD trials were originally scheduled for 2017.

This maiden flight of the Zephyr S aims to demonstrate the aircraft's capabilities, with a landing date to be confirmed once the engineering objectives have been achieved. Until today, the Zephyr aircraft has logged almost 1,000 solid hours of flying time.

In future, Airbus will be flying Zephyr S from a new operating site at the Wyndham airfield in Western Australia. This has been chosen as the first launch and recovery site for the Zephyr UAV due mainly to its largely unrestricted airspace and reliable weather.  The site will be operational from September 2018.

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