Zephyr, the Airbus solar aircraft

Airbus’ Zephyr solar jet took off from Arizona on July 11 and was in the air for 25 days, 23 hours and 57 minutes – just 3 minutes out of 26 flying days. The plane has a wingspan of 25 meters and weighs 75 kilos. It has two propellers driven by electric motors and solar panels on its wings. The batteries turn the propellers when the plane flies in the dark.

The Zephyr S flies well above weather systems and commercial aircraft at 70,000 feet. “The only civilian aircraft flying at this altitude was the Concorde, and only the famous military U2 and SR-71 Blackbird could operate at similar levels.“Says Airbus in a press release.

This highly successful maiden flight represents a new milestone in the Zephyr program»Says Jana Rosenmann, director of unmanned aerial systems at Airbus. The previous sustained flight record was 11 days, set by a Zephyr prototype. The new flight has yet to be certified as the longest in history. “In the coming days we will check all engineering data and resultsRosenmann said.

The company plans to develop a new version of the aircraft called the Zephyr T with more powerful engines later this year. Airbus is preparing a new base for future Zephyr operations at Wyndham Airfield in Western Australia.

Airbus calls the Zephyr S a “pseudo-satellite”, a platform that is neither an airplane nor a satellite. The Zephyr business model requires offering a range of services ranging from reconnaissance missions to maritime surveillance, border patrol activities and communication services to businesses at a much lower cost than conventional satellites. . Once fully developed, the Zephyr should stay in the air for months.

The aircraft can also offer rapid response time to track the spread of forest fires, oil spills, or other natural disasters. Of course, such a platform could also have less encouraging uses. The first customer to pay will be the UK Ministry of Defense.

Airbus Zephyr

It could also be used to provide internet connectivity in parts of the world where digital communications are limited or currently unavailable. Several companies, including SpaceX and Facebook, plan to offer these services in the future. SpaceX plans to use a network of hundreds of low-level satellites. He thinks he can save money by putting them into orbit by bringing them aboard regular SpaceX launches.

Facebook intended to use aircraft similar to the Airbus Zephyr for its internet program, but recently closed the project because it did not perform as expected after four years of testing. You are looking for new partners to move this project forward, maybe Airbus could be your solution.

More information: airbus.com