Zephyr is a High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) that fills a capability gap between satellites and UAVs.
The platform is the world’s leading, solar-electric, stratospheric UAV. Airbus say it will revolutionise defence, humanitarian and environmental missions all over the world.
“The first unmanned aircraft of its kind to fly in the stratosphere, Zephyr harnesses the sun’s rays, running exclusively on solar power, above the weather and conventional air traffic. It is a HAPS: a High Altitude Pseudo Satellite, able to fly for months at a time, combining the persistence of a satellite with the flexibility of a UAV.”
In Summer 2018 for its maiden flight from Arizona, the Zephyr S remained aloft for 25 days 23h 57min, nearly twice as long as the previous record flight of 14 days set by its predecessor.
Last week, we flew two MOD owned solar-powered Zephyr record breaking aircraft to Australia for concept trials. The @99Sqn C-17 is the first ever aircraft to carry the Zephyr, which recently smashed the world flight endurance record! 🌏✈️#Zephyr #JFC @DefenceHQ @RoyalAirForce pic.twitter.com/UgTIyFn5wW
— 99 Squadron RAF (@99Sqn) September 1, 2018
In November 2015, former Prime Minister David Cameron laid out plans during the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015, for the purchase of Zephyr. In the speech, he stated that the UK was to field a “British-designed unmanned aircraft that will fly at the edge of the earth’s atmosphere and allow us to monitor our adversaries for weeks on end, providing critical intelligence for our armed forces”.
A purchase of two Zephyr-8’s was reported in February 2016. The Ministry of Defence later confirmed the purchase of a third Zephyr 8 platform.
The Zephyr 8 will have roughly 24 kg of batteries and a 5 kg payload, and be 30 percent lighter and carry 50 percent more batteries than the Zephyr 7.