New Airframe Currently on Maiden Flight
On 16 July at Farnborough Airbus Defence & Space unveiled the ZEPHYR S High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) – the first purely production aircraft in the ZEPHYR family, which has so far consisted of research and development airframes.
ZEPHYR is a solar–electric, stratospheric UAV, which harnesses the sun’s rays, running exclusively on solar power, 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. The opening of production facilities, named after the inventor of the ZEPHYR, the late Chris Kelleher, is part of a significant focus by Airbus on the programme. The Kelleher facility represents the first serial HAPS assembly line worldwide.
This programme milestone comes just a few days after the ZEPHYR aircraft departed for its maiden flight from Arizona. 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. This maiden flight of the ZEPHYR S aims to prove and demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities, with a landing date to be confirmed once the engineering objectives have been achieved. Until today, the ZEPHYR aircraft has logged almost 1,000 solid hours of flying time.
In future, Airbus will be flying ZEPHYR S from its new operating site at Wyndham airfield in Western Australia, 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.
“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,” observed said Airbus Defence & Space Chief Executive Officer, Dirk Hoke.
“ZEPHYR will bring new see, sense and connect capabilities to both military and commercial customers [and] 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,” added Head of the ZEPHYR programme at Airbus, Sophie Thomas.