While Airbus is mostly known for its passenger aircraft construction, it is also one of the global leaders in space engineering. The company’s press-release published on Wednesday reveals another achievement in this sphere. A Zephyr S HAPS drone (High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite) successfully landed in Farnborough, the UK upon finishing its first trial flight. The drone was in the air for 25 days, 23 hours, and 57 minutes, breaking the world record for a pilotless aircraft.
“This very successful maiden flight represents a new significant milestone in the Zephyr program,” said Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus, adding that after checking all engineering data and outputs Airbus planned additional test flights for the second half of the year.
Zephyr S HAPS is the most recent addition to the Zephyr program. The vehicles to combine the capabilities of satellites and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). According to the Airbus’ description on the website, Zephyrs are able to fly at an altitude of 21,000 meters and to carry payloads five times its own weight (75 kg), provide data communications with both in line of sight and beyond line of sight and transmit high-resolution videos. It is powered by solar energy, with the solar batteries housed on 25 meter wings of the drone.
The company outlines that Zephyr can be useful during environmental disasters, monitoring the spread of the wildfires or oil spills. It could also provide a persistent surveillance and real-time mapping while enabling satellite communications and coverage where internet connection is spotty at best Airbus notes that Zephyr can be used during security and defense missions as well.
The previous record of 14 days in the stratosphere had been set by Zephyr’s prototype several years ago. The current achievement was supported by the UK government with the UK Ministry of Defense becoming the first Zephyr program customer, the press release stated. The company now is aiming to increase the flight duration up to 100 days with Wyndham airfield in western Australia set to be the next operation site for the drone’s further development.