QinetiQ has filed for three world records for Zephyr, its solar powered high-altitude long endurance (HALE) Unmanned Air System (UAS), with the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), subject to ratification for achieving:
• the absolute duration record for an unmanned air vehicle – being filed at 336 hrs / 22 minutes;
• the duration record for a UAV (in the U/1.c / 50-500Kg category) – time as above; and
• the absolute altitude record for a UAV (in the above category) – being filed at 70,740ft (21,561m).
Zephyr was launched at 06:41 (MST) on 09 July 2010 and stayed aloft for 14 nights (336 hrs / 22 minutes) above the US Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, before being brought safely back to earth on the morning of 23 July having achieving all the objectives of the trial.
Easy to transport in a standard road transport container, Zephyr can, once launched, remain above a general area for weeks, if not months, at a time, delivering vital capability at a fraction of the cost of satellites and significantly more cost effectively than other ‘conventionally powered’ manned or unmanned aircraft.
Zephyr also does not need to return to base at regular intervals for refuelling or servicing which helps minimise the logistical supply chain, extending its operational capability and appeal.
Its zero emissions also make it environmentally friendly.
During the Yuma trial, Zephyr carried a communications payload configured to meet the needs of the UK Ministry of Defence.
In addition to the obvious defence and security applications, commercial uses include environmental research; monitoring crops and pollution; providing tactical intelligence over disaster zones or forest fires; plus delivering mobile communications capabilities in remote areas.