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Zephyr S sets flight record
Zephyr S. © Airbus

Zephyr S sets flight record

Airbus Defence and Space reports that its solar-powered Zephyr S remotely piloted aircraft has completed a 26-day maiden flight.

Airbus Defence and Space reports that the first production solar-powered Zephyr S remotely piloted aircraft landed successfully almost 26 days after taking off on its maiden flight on 11th July in Arizona. The company has filed an application to establish the flight, which lasted 25 days, 23 hours and 57 minutes, as a new world record for flight duration.

The previous longest flight duration record was also logged by a Zephyr prototype aircraft a few years ago, achieving then more than 14 days continuous flight.

This new record flight was supported by the UK government and reflects the UK Ministry of Defence’s position as the first customer for this potentially game-changing capability. 

Zephyr is a solar–electric, stratospheric Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), also referred to as a High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS). It harnesses the sun’s rays, running exclusively on solar power, above the weather and conventional air trafic, complementing satellites, UAVs and manned aircraft to provide persistent local satellite-like services.

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.

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.

The company recently announced a dedicated production facility at Farnborough, UK.

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