Airbus Defence and Space has opened the production line for its Zephyr high altitude pseudo satellite (HAPS), and unveiled the production Zephyr S.
The company today at the world at Farnborough Air Show said previous Zephyr units were Research and Development prototypes.
The Zephyr is solar powered and flies above the weather and conventional air traffic; filling a capability gap complimentary to satellites, UAVs and manned aircraft to provide affordable and persistent local satellite-like services, Airbus said.
The opening of production facilities is part of a significant focus by Airbus on the Zephyr programme. The new Kelleher facility represents the first serial HAPS assembly line worldwide.
“Today represents a significant milestone in the Zephyr programme. The facility is home to the world’s leading High-Altitude Pseudo Satellite and will be a showcase location, linking to our operational flight bases around the world. The Zephyr S aircraft is demonstrably years ahead of any other comparable system and I am beyond proud of the Airbus team for their unrivalled success. Today we have created a new future for stratospheric flight”, said Dirk Hoke, Chief Executive Officer of Defence and Space.
This programme milestone comes as the Zephyr aircraft is currently flying after having departed for its maiden flight from Arizona, USA a few days ago. This flight is being supported by both the UK and US governments and reflects the UK Ministry of Defence’s position as the first customer for this innovative and potentially game changing capability.
The maiden flight of the Zephyr S aims to prove and demonstrate the aircraft capabilities, with a landing date to be confirmed once the engineering objectives have been achieved. The Zephyr aircraft has logged almost 1 000 hours of flying time to date.
Added Sophie Thomas, Head of the Zephyr programme at Airbus: “Firstly, I would like to thank Defence Equipment & Support, the procurement arm of the UK MOD for their continued support of the Zephyr programme. Zephyr will bring new see, sense and connect capabilities to both military and commercial customers. Zephyr will provide the potential to revolutionise disaster management, including monitoring the spread of wildfires or oil spills. It provides persistent surveillance, tracing the world’s changing environmental landscape and will be able to provide communications to the most unconnected parts of the world.”
In future, Airbus will be flying Zephyr S from their new operating site at the Wyndham airfield in Western Australia. This has been chosen as the first launch and recovery site for the Zephyr UAV due mainly to its largely unrestricted airspace and reliable weather. The site will be operational from September 2018.