The aircraft was jointly tested with the US Army and was in the air over Sonoran Desert for 42 consecutive days. This set a new record.
The solar-powered Airbus Zephyr S took flight from the U.S. Army Yuma Test Site June 15, 2022. Since then, it has flown over the Yuma Test Site as well as Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. According to previous reports, it was in the air for 36 consecutive days.
According to a statement by the US Army, the Zephyr broke several records during its latest flight. These included first flight over water, first flight in international airspace, longest continuous flight and farthest distance from a launch site.
Zephyr is a 25 meter-long drone with a narrow fuselage. The drone’s large size is offset by its carbon fiber construction, which reduces its weight to 75kg. Airbus calls the Zephyr “the first stratospheric UAV” and says it can fly continuously for several months. This aircraft is also known as a high-altitude platform station, sometimes called a pseudosatellite. This type of aircraft can stay in the air for extended periods of time and use solar power to recharge the on-board batteries. The batteries are then used to keep it flying at night. Airbus claims that the Zephyr’s flight is carbon neutral due to its energy storage system.
Zephyr can carry payloads as large as 22.5 kg. This includes optical, infrared and hyperspectral sensors, radar, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and early warning systems. The drone can see an area of 20 km by 30 km from the ground because it operates at an altitude around 21,340 meters.