BAE Systems/Prismatic HALE PHASA-35 Begins Trials Next Year
Amid the plentiful models and exhibits at Farnborough this month was a relatively unobtrusive 35m wingspan black UAS at the BAE Systems stand. PHASA-35 – a high-altitude, long endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial system (UAS) that results from collaboration between BAE Systems and Prismatic – will begin flight testing next year, according to the companies.
The intent behind the solar-powered UAS project is to find an aerial vehicle capable of staying aloft for a year or more, addressing such applications as persistent surveillance, environmental monitoring and broadcast relay. The only limitation – apart from operator imagination – will be the payload capacity, which is currently foreseen at some 15kg, which provides greater capacity, for example, than the Airbus ZEPHYR.
Airbus is developing ZEPHYR with the same HALE-type missions in mind. ZEPHYR S has already set endurance records for 14 days of uninterrupted flight. The larger ZEPHYR T, still in development, aims at carrying larger payloads but still, apparently, less than those for PHASA-35.
Nor are traditional aerostructure companies the only ones addressing the conundrum of effortless and effective very long endurance unmanned flights. Alphabet – Google’s parent company – is using high-altitude helium-filled balloons, with a typical endurance of around 100 days, to provide services such as bringing remote area of Kanya online in its Project Loon. Facebook is developing the AQUILA solar-powered UAS with a view to bringing internet access to isolated communities.
BAE Systems and Prismatic will now focus on leveraging the advantage they perceive they have and increasing the payload and geographic utility of the solar-powered aircraft, seeking to be able to fly it further north and south of the equator than such aircraft have hitherto been capable of.