Days of the drone
Airbus says its solar-powered Zephyr drone just stayed airborne for 25 consecutive days, a record for any type of airplane. The company’s success comes after both Facebook and Google announced they had grounded major drone-projects.
The Zephyr needs neither runway nor airport to launch. The drone operates within the Earth’s stratosphere. And can fly persistently at around 70,000ft to avoid conventional air traffic.
Airbus says the drone could well revolutionise disaster management by monitoring, say, the spread of wildfires or oil spills. The aircraft could also be used to monitor the world’s changing environmental landscape and oversee secure borders, as well as provide Internet access around the globe.
The company is looking to launch further flights this year, and expects the Zephyr will be able to remain aloft for around 100 days at a time.
The production model Zephyr S boasts a wingspan of 25m and weighs under 75kg and carry see, sense and connect payloads. The Zephyr T – currently in development - has a 33m wingspan and weighs 140kg.
Facebook announced in June that it was shuttering its Aquila Internet drone project, citing the competition in the space from leading aerospace companies, presumably thinking of Airbus. And Google said it would cease work on military drone systems when its contract on the US Project Maven federal initiative comes to an end next year following protests from Google workers about its defence industry activities.