Although it didn’t break a desired record, the solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by Airbus Defense and the US Army, dubbed the Zephyr, made history by staying in the air for 64 days in stratospheric flight. For the aircraft manufacturer, the test was successful, as it allowed for a series of experiments related to resistance in flight.
The Zephyr had been in the air since June 15th and crashed on August 19th, under circumstances not yet detailed by Airbus or the US military.
It narrowly missed breaking the in-flight endurance record, which dates back to 1958, when two pilots of a Cessna 172 spent just under 65 days flying continuously near Las Vegas, refueling via a hose connected to a moving truck. on the ground.
Known as a high-altitude pseudo-satellite (HAPS), the Airbus platform was flying over the Yuma Proving Ground military test site in Arizona. The army is looking to develop what it describes as “ultra-long endurance stratospheric capabilities”.
Airbus, meanwhile, sees many other military and commercial applications for the Zephyr, including for performing persistent surveillance and monitoring, reconnaissance, convoy protection, signal interception, crop monitoring and wildfire management, among others.
The ultralight aircraft’s wings are 25 m in wingspan and feature solar panels, which are used to power the Zephyr’s two rear-mounted propellers. The aircraft weighed less than 75 kg. The Zephyr’s systems stored enough solar energy during the day to power the aircraft at night.