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Zephyr 7 High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite sets new record

The solar-powered Zephyr UAV. Photo: Airbus Defence and Space

BLAGNAC, FRANCE (BNS): The Airbus Zephyr 7 High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) has set another record - flying nonstop of over 11-days in winter weather conditions - carrying a new primary payload including flight controlled through satellite communications.

Airbus Defence and Space said the flight test was carried out for the UK Ministry of Defence.

This latest flight was undertaken in the Southern Hemisphere winter to show the aircraft could remain operational through the longer nights, re-charge sufficiently in the shorter periods of daylight and cope with the harsher weather conditions.

HAPS run exclusively on solar power, which is used during the day to charge a battery that is used to power the flight through the night, so this flight in shorter days and longer nights was significantly more demanding than any previous one, the Company said.

"During this most recent flight of the Airbus Zephyr, we successfully demonstrated a number of advancements that are critical to achieving the operational readiness of the technology and that increase its operational value for our customers," said Jens Federhen, Head of the Airbus HAPS programme.

Apart from flying a new primary payload, Jens Federhen highlighted the fact that for the first time, satellite communications had been used to control and monitor the aircraft.

"The use of the SatCom link to control the aircraft beyond line of sight of the ground station is another critical aspect that we needed to test to move towards a pseudo-satellite form of operation where the Zephyrs can be controlled across the world from a central control station," he said.

The flight was a breakthrough in terms of proving the year-round capability of the Airbus Zephyr, as Chris Kelleher, the Technical Director of the Airbus HAPS programme, said: "While Zephyr 7 holds the world record for flight endurance and has flown continuously ten times longer than any other UAV, all previous long duration flights have been carried out in the summer months when the longer days, shorter nights and better weather make flights significantly easier..."

This most recent flight allowed over 250 hours of flight testing of the Zephyr 7 prototype, which will now be used to refine the final design of Zephyr 8, the next-generation HAPS vehicle currently being developed by Airbus.


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