By Madeline Winkler, APNTSpace CFT, Army Futures Command
Huntsville, Ala. – The Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space (APNT/Space) Cross-Functional Team (CFT) is conducting stratospheric experimentation that utilizes the Zephyr ultra-long endurance stratospheric unmanned air system (UAS).
The first flight of 2022, which launched on June 15, has demonstrated Zephyr’s energy storage capacity, battery longevity, solar panel efficiency and station-keeping abilities that will further the Army’s goal to implement ultra-long endurance stratospheric UAS capabilities.
During this flight, the Zephyr accomplished a number of firsts, including its first flight into international airspace, first flight over water, longest continuous flight utilizing satellite communication controls, and the farthest demonstration from its launch point, while carrying a commercial, off-the-shelf payload. This flight also broke the world record for longest duration UAS flight (approximately 26 days), which was set by the same aircraft in 2018. This flight has completed 36 days of flight time and is still flying over Yuma Proving Ground.
“Ultra-long endurance unmanned platforms have the potential to provide significant military capabilities and enhanced confidence as part of the Army’s diversified multi-layered architecture,” said Michael Monteleone, Director of the APNT/Space CFT. “We have seen incredible progress in high-altitude platforms in recent years. This experimentation allows us to build on that knowledge by demonstrating multiple payload types, fully exploring the military utility of stratospheric operations, and modernizing areas of deep sensing, long-range targeting and resilient communications.”
A second Zephyr flight will launch in the coming weeks and travel over the Pacific Ocean. This flight will demonstrate an Army Futures Command (AFC)-developed prototype payload over multiple combatant commands, and continue to inform high altitude requirements.
The Airbus-developed Zephyr is the first high-altitude UAS of its kind, providing a persistent and adaptable longevity in the stratosphere. This experiment is performed in cooperation with the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Task Force, U.S. Army Program Executive Office – Aviation, and with multiple combatant commands under an Other Transaction Authority (OTA), with T2S Solutions LLC as the integrator.
About the APNT/Space CFT: Headquartered at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, the Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space Cross-Functional Team is responsible for accelerating the delivery of advanced APNT, Tactical Space and Navigation Warfare capabilities to the Soldier. Working together with a core team of experts, the CFT informs technology and system requirements through continuous experimentation and prototyping, technology integration and Soldier feedback. Through this process, the APNT/Space CFT supports the Army Futures Command in delivering next-generation weapons, vehicles and equipment at an accelerated rate, giving Army Forces the ability to deploy, fight and win decisively against any adversary, anytime and anywhere.