US Army recently announced that the Zephr drone, co-developed with Airbus, has been flying for more than 37 days since June 15th, and managed to break the 26-day record of the same model.
The solar-powered Zephr was initially designed by Qinetiq back in 2003, and was demonstrated to the US Army in 2008 at a flight time of 82 hours and an altitude of 61K feet, which broke the continuous flight record of drones.
Qinetiq continued working with US Army after selling its Zephr drone system to Airbus in 2013. The latest Zyphr 8 has a wingspan of 25m and weighs approximately 75kg (lithium battery taking up 25kg), and is capable of carrying 5kg of equipment. The drone is adopted with three-junction GaAs tandem solar cells, and can be self-charged while flying, thus achieving ultra-long flight duration and distance.
Michael Monteleone from the Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space Cross-Functional Team commented that a drone with such ultra-long distance and airtime like Zephr would drastically improve the US Army’s reconnaissance capability.
Zephyr 8 passed a series of challenges during the 37-day test, including first transnational travel, across-the-sea flight, and long duration of flight using satellite signals. Zephyr 8 is still flying as we speak, so the longest flight record is still adding up.
US Army commented that another long distance flight test will happen within several weeks after the current test is concluded, and Zyphr will be installed with tailored military communication and detection equipment designed by the Army Futures Command then in further marching its official service.
(Cover photo source: Airbus)