Airbus Defence and Space has won an order from the MOD for the manufacture and operation of two solar-powered Zephyr 8 high-altitude pseudo-satellite (HAPS) craft.
Flying at some 65,000ft, the ultra-lightweight Zephyr 8 is uniquely capable of providing persistent surveillance over land or sea, and hosting communications links, over the same area for months at a time without landing. The precise purposes for which the MoD will use its Zephyrs have not been disclosed.
Zephyr flies slowly and above weather systems, loitering over a selected area under the close guidance of a ground controller to perform its mission. The earlier Zephyr 7 HAPS holds the world record for 14 days continuous flight set in 2010 – with the aircraft charging its batteries from sunlight during the day and maintaining its high altitude at night.
The latest generation Zephyr 8 has a wingspan of 25 metres, is 30% lighter and can carry 50% more batteries than its predecessor - the 22.5 metre wingspan Zephyr 7. This enables the Zephyr 8 to carry heavier payloads for its surveillance and communications roles. The Zephyr 8 HAPS is designed to fly continuously for over a month before landing, being refurbished, and flying again.
The first Zephyr 8 is under construction at Airbus Defence and Space’s Farnborough, UK facility and is due to fly in mid-2017.
Source: Airrbus Defence & Space