US Army Zephyr solar drone crashed for unknown reason after 2 months of flight

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The US Army is currently testing a drone stratospheric which has already broken records for the duration of the flight. Fueled with solar panels, he had already set a record of 26 consecutive flying days in July. The aircraft had not stopped and subsequently continued to increase its flight time.

Its mission was to fly over the southern United States, the Gulf of Mexico, then South America before returning to Yuma, Arizona. However, it did not reach its destination and crashed on the way. According to a US military spokeswoman, theaircraft has ” encountered events on August 18, around 9 p.m. ” The events that led to the unexpected end of Zephyr’s flight are currently under investigation. Further information will be communicated once the investigation is complete. »

Flight time, distance and altitude records

Flight data shows a rapid descent at 1,385 meters per minute, supporting the hypothesis that it crashed. This did not prevent him from smashing several records. The aircraft flew continuously for 64 days, and traveled more than 30,000 nautical miles, or 55,560 kilometers. The drone has also reached an elevation 76,100 feet, or 23,195 meters.

The Zephyr uses its solar panels to recharge its batteries during the day, allowing it to continue flying at night. At such an altitude, it is above the clouds and therefore obtains maximum sunshine. Eventually, it could replace the use of satellites in certain situations, for example as a telecommunications relay or monitoring platform.

To know more

Solar energy: Airbus Zephyr sets new world record

The Zephyr drone at energy solar broke its own record for time spent in theair with 36 consecutive days. The US military now plans to test it with military equipment.

Article of Louis Nephewpublished on 07/25/2022

the Zephyr Airbus continues to accumulate world records. After having risen to an altitude of 21,915 meters and carried out an already record flight of 26 consecutive days, the stratospheric solar-electric drone has just added ten more days to its list on behalf of theArmy Futures Command (AFC) which manages military modernization projects. After taking to the air on June 15, the drone flew at an altitude of more than 21,300 meters above Arizona in the United States. The aircraft with a wingspan of 28 meters and weighing 75 kg can carry a load of 5 kg and is theoretically able to stay in the air for months, well above the air traffic and the vagaries of the weather.

The Airbus Zephyr is the first solar electric stratospheric drone. © Airbus Defense and Space

First and foremost military objectives

The purpose of the device is to replace satellites over a monitoring area of ​​20-30 km. the drone can be enriched with sensors radar, lidar and infrared. It is of great interest to the military, for whom it would make it possible to replace satellites in the event of a faulty link in order to maintain operational surveillance and communication capacities. During these tests, the plane which should be totally autonomous was flown via a relationship satellite. In addition to this flight, another test will be carried out in the coming weeks to fly over the Pacific Ocean with a payload. It will then be a question of wearing military equipment to ensure communication tests between multiple American command centers.


Zephyr: a world altitude record for the Airbus stratospheric drone

The Airbus Zephyr solar drone is accumulating records. During its last operational validation tests, it managed to reach an altitude of 23,915 meters.

Article by Sylvain Biget, published on

He gate better and better its name of “pseudolite”, the contraction of pseudo and satellite. After achieving flight duration records of 26 days, the Zephyr of Airbus rose to an altitude of 23,915 meters, in the sky of Arizona (United States). For the aircraft manufacturer, it was a question of carrying out the last test flights of the aircraft so that it could obtain its status as an operational aircraft. With its wings spanning 28 meters and a mass of 75 kg, including 24 kg of batteries charged by vast solar panels positioned on its wings, it can carry a payload of 5 kg.

During the tests, the drone stratospheric solar-electric was therefore able to evolve according to several configurations with different payloads, test its optical systems, its maneuverability in the stratosphere and its ability to align itself precisely to points on the ground. These flights also secured approval from the US Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) to fly in the territory’s airspace. This validation is important because, to place oneself above the commercial air trafficthe drone must be able to cross it in semi-autonomous mode.

It can replace satellites

The tests were also an opportunity to test an Opaz system as a payload. This equipment is designed by Airbus to carry out missions ofearth observation from the stratosphere. With his big electro-optical sensors (18 cm) and infrared (70 cm), the device delivers precise images and videos of the Planet. In all, during its tests, Zephyr S will have flown for 2,435 hours in the stratosphere. During its last flights, the drone held in the air for 18 days, to accumulate 887 hours of flight. The tests ended a month ago.

Depending on the payload it hosts, the device can be dedicated to many apps. It is thus able to cover large geographical areas in telephony mobile. According to Airbus, it could also replace the equivalent of 250 cellular antennas. It is also capable of carrying out environmental and border surveillance missions. It is of particular interest to the military and in particular the British Ministry of Defence, which is its main client. The latter envisages the Zephyr as a replacement for links satellite lost in order to keep its communication and surveillance networks operational.

This stratospheric solar-electric drone can replace satellites by performing environmental monitoring missions.

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