After taking off on July 11 in Arizona, Zephyr S logged a maiden flight of more than 25 days, the longest duration flight ever made. An application has been made to establish this as a new world record. This maiden flight of the solar powered Zephyr S proves the system capabilities and achieved all the flight’s engineering objectives.
The previous longest flight duration record was also logged by a Zephyr prototype aircraft a few years ago, achieving then more than 14 days continuous flight, which already was ten times longer than any other aircraft in the world. This new record flight was supported by the UK government and reflects the UK Ministry of Defence’s position as the first customer for this innovative and potentially game changing capability.
According to the company, Zephyr is the world’s leading, solar–electric, stratospheric Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The craft harnesses the sun’s rays, running exclusively on solar power, above the weather and conventional air traffic; filling a capability gap complimentary to satellites, UAVs and manned aircraft to provide persistent, local, satellite-like services.
Zephyr will bring new see, sense and connect capabilities to both commercial and military customers. Zephyr will provide the potential to revolutionize disaster management, said Airbus, including monitoring the spread of wildfires or oil spills. The HAPS craft provides persistent surveillance, tracing the world’s changing environmental landscape and will be able to provide communications to the most unconnected parts of the world.
Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus, said that this very successful maiden flight represents a new significant milestone in the Zephyr program, adding a new stratospheric flight endurance record which the company hopes will be formalized shortly. Airbus 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 the company's new operating site at the Wyndham airfield in Western Australia.