Airbus’ pioneering solar-powered drone has managed to set a world record in its maiden voyage.
The Zephyr S was able to stay 70,000 feet in the air for 25 days, 23 hours and seven minutes.
That was just enough for it to set a world record for the longest continuous flight in Earth’s atmosphere.
The craft landed safely on Wednesday after spending roughly three weeks in the air – two-thirds more than the previous record holder, according to Bloomberg.
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Airbus’ pioneering solar-powered drone has managed to set a world record in its maiden voyage. After taking off on July 11, it was able to stay in the air for an astounding 25 days, 23 hours and seven minutes, which landed it a world record
Zephyr S took off on its first test flight from Arizona on July 11 and has stayed in the air ever since.
The previous record was set by a prototype Zephyr drone in 2015, when it managed to stay in the air for 14 days.
The drone had already broken this record on July 25, but Airbus had to wait to land the drone before it could officially announce the milestone.
‘Zephyr S, Airbus’ High-Altitude-Pseudo-Satellite, has surpassed the current flight endurance record of an aircraft without refueling of 14 days, 22 minutes and 8 seconds and continues to pioneer the stratosphere,’ the firm said.
Airbus unveiled its pioneering solar-powered drone last month. Called the Zephyr S, the aerospace giant presented the ‘pseudo-satellite’ to crowds gathered at Britain’s Farnborough airshow. It’s now planning to start further testing in Australia
‘This first flight of the Zephyr S aims to prove and demonstrate the aircraft capabilities, with the final endurance record to be confirmed on landing.’
Zephyr S is able to operate at an altitude that’s higher than Earth’s weather systems, Bloomberg noted.
Previously, this was an altitude that was only reserved for the Concorde supersonic jet, the U2 spy plane and Lockheed Martin’s Mach 3 SR-71 Blackbird.
This allows the drone to charge its solar panels more efficiently.
Additional test flights are now being planned at a site in Western Australia, Airbus said.
The drone was largely able to achieve the new record thanks to its ultra-light design: It has a wingspan of 82 feet, but weighs in at less than 165lbs.
The aerospace giant presented the ‘pseudo-satellite’ to crowds gathered at Britain’s Farnborough airshow.
‘This maiden flight of the Zephyr S aims to prove and demonstrate the aircraft capabilities, with a landing date to be confirmed once the engineering objectives have been achieved,’ Airbus said in a statement announcing the test flight.
‘Until today, the Zephyr aircraft has logged almost 1,000 solid hours of flying time.’
The High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite can fly as high as 70,000ft in the air, which is twice the altitude of a commercial airplane. The drone has so much endurance thanks to its ultra-light design. It has a wingspan of 82ft, but weighs in at less than 165lbs
WHAT IS AIRBUS’ ZEPHYR-S ‘PSEUDO-SATELLITE?
The Zephyr S has been built by Airbus Defence and Space engineers.
It is powered by the sun during the day, which also recharges its lithium-sulphur batteries to power it by night. Its huge 22.5m wingspan means it can be launched by four military personnel on their shoulders.
The £‘psuedo-satellite’ can fly at more than 70,000ft – twice the altitude of a commercial airliner.
British military forces will use the high-tech aircraft to monitor targets on the ground from anywhere in the world.
The Zephyr drones will play vital roles in tracking targets in the ground using high tech antennae and a ‘record-breaking kit’ for high altitude surveillance
Zephyr S has been in development for over a year and will be used by British military forces as a high-tech aircraft to monitor targets on the ground from anywhere in the world.
The High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) can fly as high as 70,000ft in the air, which is twice the altitude of a commercial airplane.
During the day, it’s powered by solar energy that also recharges its lithium-sulphur batteries, which then serve as its energy source at night.
‘This has been chosen as the first launch and recovery site for the Zephyr [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle] due mainly to its largely unrestricted airspace and reliable weather,’ Airbus noted.
The site will be operational beginning in September, the firm added.
Zephyr S has been in development for over a year and will be used by British military as a high-tech aircraft to monitor targets on the ground from anywhere. During the day, it’s powered by solar energy that recharges its lithium-sulphur batteries
Elite units will use the camera on the aircraft to monitor ground movement. Its antennae provides a communications platform for the furthest reaches of the globe
In addition to the Zephyr S, Airbus is also planning another HAPS called the Zephyr T.
It would feature a wingspan of more than 100ft, allowing it to carry bigger payloads.
The drones are ‘a mix between a satellite and a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) with the capabilities of a satellite and the flexibility of a UAV,’ Jana Rosenmann, senior vice president of unmanned aerial systems at Airbus, told AFP.
Aside from national security uses, the drones will also be used for maritime surveillance, border patrol missions and forest fire detection, according to the AFP.
If satellites are not available, special forces soldiers will use a control station to fly it over a range of up to 400km (250 miles).
Elite units will then use the camera on the aircraft to monitor ground movement. Britain’s defense ministry has already ordered two of the Zephyr drones.
Its antennae provides a communications platform for the furthest reaches of the globe.