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Zephyr flying high and setting records

14th October 2021 - 14:58 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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Zephyr demonstrated successful flight with multiple payload integrations and tested new OPAZ payload, streaming Earth observation data. (Photo: Airbus)

Airbus’ Zephyr has proved its capabilities are out of this world as it set a new world record for absolute altitude for this class of UAS at 76,100ft.

Airbus’ Zephyr Solar High Altitude Platform (HAPS) has completed its most ambitious and successful flight campaign to date.

The flight campaign aimed to demonstrate how Zephyr could be used for future operations, flying outside of restricted airspace and over airspace shared with commercial air traffic.

Zephyr proves its ability to provide instant, persistent and improved situational awareness using its Optical Advanced Earth Observation system for Zephyr (OPAZ) payload.

The testing consisted of six flights, four low-level test flights and two stratospheric flights. The stratospheric flights flew for around 18 days each, totalling more than 36 days of stratospheric flight.

This adds a further 887 flight hours to Zephyr’s accumulated 2,435 stratospheric flight hours.

Airbus claims Zephyr is carbon neutral as it uses sunlight to fly and recharge its batteries and so does not use fossil fuels or produce carbon emissions.

The programme has faced setbacks, as 2020 testing resulted in the Zephyr crashing after climbing to 8,500ft and encountering turbulence that led to a terrain collision.

According to Shephard Defence Insight, the aircraft can be used for military purposes, humanitarian missions, precision farming, environmental and security monitoring and to provide internet coverage to regions of poor or zero connectivity.

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