Airbus has opened the world’s first High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) flight base in Wyndham, WA, which will serve as the launch site for the Zephyr UAV.
This site has been chosen due to its largely unrestricted airspace and reliable weather.
Zephyr is a solar electric stratospheric UAV that flies above the weather and conventional air traffic in a space between satellites, UAVs and manned aircraft to provide persistent local satellite-like services. It is able to accommodate voice and data communications payloads and operate at an altitude of 65,000 feet (19,800 metres) for between 14 and 40 days.
“I am delighted to welcome the Airbus team and their Zephyr project to WA," Premier of WA Mark McGowan said. "This is the culmination of almost a year of hard work by Airbus and [the WA] Government to bring this exciting and innovative technology to our state.
"The Zephyr aircraft provides new capabilities to commercial and military customers and will bring an economic boost to the East Kimberley region."
“The official opening of the Airbus Wyndham launch site in Western Australia, the world’s first operational HAPS site, marks the start of a new era for Zephyr," Jana Rosenmann, head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus, said. "We are proud to see Australia become part of the Zephyr operational network.
"The site is our gateway to the stratosphere and will be the main flight base for Zephyr going forward.”
The larger Zephyr T (twin tail) vehicle now under development will be capable of carrying a 25 kg payload, which will allow a larger range of sensors to be incorporated, including a nano-radar.