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Solar-Powered Unmanned Aerial System Takes Flight

27 November 2009

QinetiQ's Zephyr High-Altitude Long-Endurance unmanned aerial system (HALE UAS) programme recently resumed flight testing and payload evaluations in Yuma, Arizona, when a joint US/UK Zephyr team undertook the first operation of the system with a US flight crew.

The Zephyr is an ultra-lightweight carbon-fibre aircraft, weighing less than 100 pounds and with a wingspan of up to 75 feet.

Launched by hand, Zephyr is solar powered during the day using United Solar Ovonic amorphous silicon arrays, which cover the aircraft's wings and are no thicker than sheets of paper. At night, the Zephyr it is powered by lithium-sulphur batteries that are recharged during the day using solar power.

The Zephyr concept is designed to offer solar-powered, persistent coverage with low-cost continuous mission durations of up to three months.

This test sequence, jointly sponsored by MOD UK and OSD DDRE JCTD programme, focused on evaluating potential payloads as well as advancing the conops for operating long endurance persistent aircraft in excess of five days.

Capable of carrying a variety of payloads, QinetiQ believe this device could be used in a variety of applications, such as wide area surveillance, communications relay, specific target monitoring, anti-piracy efforts, route monitoring, counter-IED, border security, and local area security.






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