Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) has a lot to prove. There is no doubt they are the future when it comes to air support in the military. However, they still have to endure very rigid tests, some of which sound almost ridiculous, in order to prove that they can handle the demands of air defense in the military.
Zephyr 7 and its Flight Endurance
One such system that is undergoing extreme testing is the Zephyr 7. A High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) aircraft came out of the gates of Airbus Defence and Space. As you may very well know, Airbus has an entire branch in its organization dedicated in winning immense contracts from the government. They’re competing with other global corporations like Boeing, which has an impressive portfolio respectively. The competition is nothing to sneeze at. This competition is what’s propelling even the most ambitious visions into reality. One vision is to extend flight endurance. Airbus Defence and Space is currently in the lead with the Zephyr 7.
Zephyr 7 is able to do this because it runs exclusively from the power supplied by our sun. It is able to harness enough solar power to maintain flight during the day, while it charges batteries that will run it through the night. It has recently completed tests that placed it in winter conditions with a primary payload onboard, which is even more demanding because the days are shorter and nights are longer in such locations. Having completed 11 days of non-stop flight stretched the benchmark for HAPS.
The aircraft test was supervised by the UK Ministry of Defense (UK MOD), and was held in approved airspace. Other governing bodies were in attendance like the Military Aviation Authority (MAA), the Type Airworthiness Authority (TAA), and the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). The Zephyr 7 performed well leading the authorities who’ve witnessed its military registration – PS001. Thus, it became the first registered Pseudo-Satellite because it was controlled during flight through satellite communications.
The Zephyr 7 Created New Benchmarks
Other than the impressive feat of handling a primary payload while maintaining flight in unimaginable span of time and not being powered by the typical fuel based engine, the Zephyr 7 set a record for being the first to be controlled using satellite communication. This would enable a central control station to control and monitor the aircraft continuously. It brings an unmatched advantage to whoever controls it of not being limited with the line of sight of controlling an unmanned aircraft from a ground station. Chris Kelleher, whom is the Technical Director of the Airbus HAPS program, released a statement that made the public more aware of the breakthroughs they’ve accomplished with the Zephyr 7. He said that all the other UAV flights that could have competed with their HAPS were flown during the summer months, which made the task of flying long durations easier because the days were longer and the nights were shorter.
The Atlas Group will continue to keep its sights on the remarkable developments pushed forward by Airbus Defence and Space.