Airbus Zephyr flies for longer than any other aircraft


Airbus Defence and Space has just concluded the longest ever duration flight by an aircraft, with its Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) landing after 25 days, 23 hours, and 57 minutes in the air.

Airbus said on 8 August that the flight was carried out by its first production Zephyr, the new Zephyr S HAPS. After taking off on 11 July in Arizona, USA, Zephyr S logged a maiden flight of over 25 days, the longest duration flight ever made. An application has been made to establish this as a new world record.

This maiden flight of the solar powered Zephyr S proves the system capabilities and achieved all the flight’s engineering objectives, Airbus said.

The previous longest flight duration record was also logged by a Zephyr prototype aircraft a few years ago, achieving then more than 14 days continuous flight, which already was ten times longer than any other aircraft in the world.
“This new record flight was supported by the UK government and reflects the UK Ministry of Defence’s position as the first customer for this innovative and potentially game changing capability,” Airbus said.

The Zephyr is solar powered, using batteries to fly at night. It flies at extremely high altitudes, in the stratosphere, above the weather and conventional air traffic, filling a capability gap complimentary to satellites, UAVs and manned aircraft to provide persistent local satellite-like services. The 75 kg aircraft has a wingspan of 25 metres.
“This very successful maiden flight represents a new significant milestone in the Zephyr programme, adding a new stratospheric flight endurance record which we hope will be formalised very shortly. We will in the coming days check all engineering data and outputs and start the preparation of additional flights planned for the second half of this year from our new operating site at the Wyndham airfield in Western Australia,” said Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus.