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article imageA solar-powered Airbus aircraft spends record 26 days aloft

By Ken Hanly     Aug 10, 2018 in Technology
Airbus' Zephyr S HAPS (High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite) took off in Arizona on July 11th. It stayed aloft 25 days, 23 hours and 57 minutes to be exact. A few minutes short of the 26 days. The aircraft is not manned.
Flight sets a new record
This is the longest duration flight ever made. An application has been made in order to establish that this is the new record. This maiden flight of the Zephyr is said to have proven the system's capabilities and the engineering objectives.
A few years ago the previous duration record was set by a prototype of the Zephyr when it flew for 14 days continuously. This was already ten times longer than any aircraft in the world.
The flight was supported by the UK government and this reflects the Ministry of Defense's position as the first customer for this innovative capability. The Zephyr is the leading solar-electric Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). It gets power from the sun's rays running exclusively on solar power. It flies high above conventional air traffic and the weather. It can provide persistent local satellite-like services explaining why it is called a pseudo-satellite.
The unmanned aircraft operates in the stratosphere at an average altitude of 70,000 feet and has a wingspan of 25 meters. It weighs just 75 kilograms.
Zephyr will provide persistent surveillance
Rosenmann, who is head of the Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus said: “This very successful maiden flight represents a new significant milestone in the Zephyr program, adding a new stratospheric flight endurance record which we hope will be formalized very shortly. We will in the coming days check all engineering data and outputs and start the preparation of additional flights planned for the second half of this year from our new operating site at the Wyndham airfield in Western Australia.”
The Zephyr will see and sense for both commercial and military customers. Zephyr could very well revolutionize disaster management by monitoring the spread of wildfires or oil spills as it provides persistent surveillance. It will also be able to provide communications to the most unconnected parts of the globe.
The Zephyr and other solar-powered aircraft give us a glimpse of what may be coming in the future of aviation. In 2016 the Solar Impulse 2, a manned aircraft powered by the sun was able to go around the globe without using any fuel but only solar power. The trip took 17 separate legs.
Solar-powered aircraft offer an intriguing glimpse of what the future of aviation could eventually look like. In 2016, the Solar Impulse 2, a manned aircraft powered by the sun, managed to circumnavigate the globe without using fuel. The trip was completed in 17 separate legs.
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