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Solar drone lands after record 14 days aloft: Company

QinetiQ Zephyr

LOS ANGELES (AFP): An ultra-light unmanned aircraft powered by solar energy and designed for military surveillance landed after being aloft for two weeks, setting the record for the longest unmanned flight, its manufacturer has said.

The British-based defense technology firm QinetiQ said Friday its 22.5-metre (74-foot) long Zephyr, weighing just 50 kilos (110 pounds), finally touched down in the Arizona desert 14 days and 21 minutes after it took off from the US Army's Yuma Proving Ground.

"It was airborne for 14 days and 21 minutes.We await the FAI (World Air Sports Federation) official confirmation of the world records," company spokeswoman Claire Scotter said from London.

The flight, which according to local newspaper the Yuma Sun, saw the craft climb to 70,000 feet (21,200 metres), shattered the unofficial world record for the longest duration unmanned flight of 82 hours by the same aircraft in 2008.

Last week, when it broke the record, the company said it had set out to create "the world's first truly eternal plane, capable of providing a low-cost, persistent surveillance capability over months rather than days."

"Potential applications include earth observation and communications relay in support of a range of defense, security and commercial requirements," Scotter added.

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