QinetiQ’s Zephyr solar-powered unmanned aerial system flown by US personnel

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


The latest test sequence focused on evaluating potential payloads as well as advancing the concept of operations (conops) for operating long-endurance aircraft for in excess of five days.

The QinetiQ Zephyr concept is designed to offer solar-powered, persistent coverage with continuous mission durations of up to three months at a revolutionary low-cost per flight-hour. Capable of carrying a variety of payloads, the applications of the hand-launched system include wide area surveillance, communications relay, specific target monitoring, anti-piracy efforts, route monitoring, counter-IED, border security, and local area security.

The ultra-lightweight carbon-fiber Zephyr weighs less than 100 lb (45 kg), yet has a wingspan of up to 75 ft (23 m). The Zephyr is solar-powered during the day, using paper-thin United Solar Ovonic amorphous silicon arrays that cover the aircraft’s wings. At night it is powered by lithium-sulfur batteries, supplied by SION Power Corporation, which are recharged during the day using solar power.

The US Army’s Yuma proving ground in Arizona was the site of Zephyr’s world-beating three-and-a-half day flight in July 2008 – the fourth of a series of flight trials that have been flown in the US since 2005.


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