Zephyr flies to new heights in Dubai

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The solar-powered Zephyr unmanned aerial vehicle flew higher than 61,000 feet above the United Arab Emirates in a day/night test.

Airbus Defense and Space said the test, conducted with engineers from the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology, or EIAST, was the first flight of the Zephyr under civil authority.

“The flight in Dubai demonstrated the ability of Zephyr to operate in regions of the world’s most crowded airspaces”, said Chris Kelleher, technical director of the Airbus High Altitude pseudo-satellite program. “I am immensely grateful for the support and diligence of the Dubai CAA and other authorities in working closely with the combined EIAST Airbus Team to ensure a safe and successful stratospheric flight.

“With all systems working well in temperatures ranging between +40oC and -80oC (+104-degrees fahrenheit and -112f) and up to a maximum altitude of 61,696ft, this flight further reinforces confidence in Zephyr for users and regulators.”

Zephyr was originally designed by QinetiQ of Britain, It is now part of Airbus defense and Space’s HAPs program for the persistent delivery of satellite-like communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

The Zephyr has a cruise speed of 30 knots and weighs about 116 pounds fully loaded with a sensor payload.

Civil applications for the aircraft include resource management, environmental monitoring and support to emergency services, Airbus said.

“… It was critical that we demonstrated that the Zephyr could be operated under civil jurisdiction to enable these services to be offered,” said Jens Federhen, head of the Airbus HAPS program. “With the support of the Dubai CAA, EIAST has shown, for the first time anywhere, that such operations can be undertaken in the civil domain.”

EIAST and Airbus now intend to collaborate on development of more advanced HAPS systems and payloads to provide essential services to the civil and commercial market, Airbus Defense and Space said.