The Airbus Zephyr completed the longest recorded drone flight in an Army test

The Airbus Zephyr is a lightweight solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle. Capable of flying at high altitudes for extremely long durations, the US military is considering the aircraft for its arsenal. Specifically, the U.S. Army Futures Command is evaluating the Zephyr for the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance role as well as beyond-line-of-sight communications. The AFC performed a live flight demonstration of the aircraft which lasted 64 days; the longest drone flight on record and almost the longest flight on record.

The Zephyr takes off at Yuma Proving Ground (US Army)

On June 15, 2022, the Zephyr was launched from the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. On August 19, the demonstration aircraft was lost somewhere over Arizona. The flight was just hours away from becoming the longest flight in history. Still, Airbus and the military have collected valuable data from the flight that will help the service pursue future high-altitude, long-duration flights. “Our teams are currently analyzing over 1,500 hours of stratospheric mission data,” an Airbus Defense representative said. single flight. “The valuable ultra-long endurance flight experience of this prototype has proven to be a positive step towards the Army’s high-altitude platforming goals.”

Airbus Zephyr
The Zephyr is extremely light for its size (Airbus)

During its record flight, the Zephyr traversed the airspace over the southern United States, the Gulf of Mexico and even South America. The solar panels on top of the plane absorb sunlight which is stored in its 53 pounds of lithium-ion batteries and power its propellers day and night. While the Zephyr’s wingspan is a whopping 82 feet, it weighs just 165 pounds. With a payload capacity of 11 pounds, the Zephyr could be equipped with ISR or communications equipment.

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