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Airbus Solar-Powered UAS Aces Its 2021 Test Flight Campaign in the U.S., Sets New Record

Zephyr is a solar-powered UAS (unmanned aerial system) developed by Airbus, which has managed to break multiple world records with its flying capabilities. Now the aerospace company announces the aircraft successfully completed its 2021 test flight campaign in the United States, setting a new world record for absolute altitude for its class.
Airbus Zephyr UAS 6 photos
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Aiming to demonstrate how the aircraft can be used for future operations, Zephyr proved it can operationalize the stratosphere. It also managed to set a new world record for absolute altitude for this class of UAS, at 76,100 ft (23,195 m).

The test campaign consisted of a total of six flights, with two of them being stratospheric and the other four, low-level flights. Zephyr totaled over 36 days of stratospheric flight, with the aircraft achieving 2,435 stratospheric flight hours to date.

According to Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus, Zephyr is the leader in its sector, proving ultra-persistence, stratospheric agility, and payload interoperability. The aircraft is a sustainable, solar-powered, ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) and network extending solution able to provide vital future connectivity and earth observation to where is needed.

Zephyr is carbon neutral because it relies on solar energy to fly, while secondary batteries are also charged in daylight so they can power the aircraft during night flights. This flying device has a wingspan of 82 ft (25m) and a weight of under 165 lb (75 kg). It can continuously fly for months at a time, at an altitude of approximately 70,000 ft (21,336 m).

It is the ability of the Zephyr to remain in the stratosphere for so long that makes it suitable for so many applications, for military or commercial customers. It can be used for disaster management, including monitoring the spread of wildfires or oil spills, it can provide continuous surveillance and communications to the most unconnected parts of the world.

It supports a wide range of payload capabilities including infrared, electro-optical, radar, passive radio frequency (RF), Lidar, and Automatic and Identification System (AIS), to name just a few.

press release

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