Zephyr Breaks Endurance Record

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Airbus Defense and Space has announced the successful landing of its first production Zephyr S High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) after a record-breaking 25 days, 23 hours and 57 minutes aloft. It was launched on July 11. The previous endurance record was a held by the Zephyr 7 prototype, which remained airborne for more than 14 days in 2010.

“This very successful maiden flight represents a new significant milestone in the Zephyr program, adding a new stratospheric flight endurance record which we hope will be formalized very shortly,” said Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus. “We will in the coming days check all engineering data and outputs and start the preparation of additional flights planned for the second half of this year from our new operating site at the Wyndham airfield in Western Australia.”

The unmanned Zephyr S weighs 75 kilograms (approximately 165 pounds) and can support up to five times its own weight. It is entirely solar-powered and cruises in the stratosphere at an average altitude of 70,000 feet. Airbus calls it “not quite an aircraft and not quite a satellite, but incorporating aspects of both.” According to the company, Zephyr aircraft are designed to provide “persistent local satellite-like services,” including tasks such as maritime surveillance, border patrol, communications, monitoring the spread of wildfires or oil spills, and navigation.

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