During the test in the stratosphere, Airbus’ solar-powered drones reached over 20,000 meters. In two starts, Zephyr was in the air for five weeks straight.
It is basically an unmanned glider, however, equipped with two small propellers where each 0.45 kW engine is powered by solar cells. Now announce Airbus the result of the suite of test flights that Zephyr S conducted during the summer.
On September 13, the spacecraft landed in Arizona. The main goal of the test was that the drone would show that it can fly outside confined airspace, and share the space with commercial aviation. At the same time, a new record was broken in the drone class – with a height of 23,193 meters.
In addition to four tests at lower altitudes, two visits were made to the stratosphere, each lasting approximately 18 days. It gives 36 days in the stratosphere with two starts. Airbus believes, however, that the Zephyr Solar High Altitude Platform System (HAPS) should in theory be able to stay in the air for up to six months.
So far, the drone has accumulated 2,435 flight hours, and in recent tests it carried a load in the form of “OPAZ”, which stands for Optical Advanced Earth Observation system for Zephyr.
But the idea is that the platform could also be used to deliver communication and connection to civilian as well as military actors – as well as for various types of surveillance, such as in connection with forest fires.