The Zephyr is a High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) that is being promoted by Airbus as an aircraft that has capabilities falling in between a satellite and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
Last summer the British Defence Ministry announced it had exercised an option to obtain a third solar-powered Zephyr.
The Defence Ministry has not disclosed how it intends to use the vehicles, the first two of which were purchased in February under a contract valued at 13 million British pounds ($17.4 million).
“The additional Zephyr-S will allow 2 airframes to be tested simultaneously and demonstrate operational handover to show that the capability could be sustained indefinitely,” the ministry said in a statement. “The OCD (Operational Concept Demonstrator) trials, which will be held in 2017, will inform Defence’s decisions around how best to provide next-generation battlefield intelligence to the UK Armed Forces.” – Space News
Propelled solely on solar power, the Zephyr is designed to fly at 65,000 feet which is above the weather and commercial air traffic. The aircraft can carry payloads, provide voice and data communications and perform high resolution optical imagery missions.
Airbus states that the Zephyr has flown for 14 continuous days which is a record for any aircraft not refueled.
Potential uses of the Zephyr according to Airbus:
- Maritime & Border surveillance
- Environmental surveillance
- In-theatre C4ISTAR relay
- Missile detection
- Ad-hoc communication bandwidth
- Continuous imagery
Featured image by Airbus