Airbus is an international pioneer in the aerospace industry, a leader in designing, manufacturing and delivering aerospace products, services and solutions.
The Zephyr S is a solar-electric, stratospheric unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), often referred to as a “drone”. Airbus went one step ahead and designated it as a “high-altitude pseudo-satellite” (HAPS) which harnesses the sun’s rays, running entirely on solar power. The ultra-lightweight Zephyr weighs 75 kilograms, has a wingspan of 25 meters, and operates at an average altitude of 70,000 feet, flying above weather (clouds, jet streams) and regular air traffic. It fills a capability gap complimentary to satellites, UAVs, and manned aircraft to provide maritime surveillance and services, border patrol missions, communications, forest fire detection and monitoring, or navigation. It can stay focused on a specific area of relevance – up to hundreds of miles wide – while providing satellite-like communications and Earth observation services with greater image granularity over long periods of time without interruption with – what Airbus refers to as – “see, sense, and connect” sensor payloads. The Zephyr can be controlled from ground stations anywhere in the world using beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) capabilities and has civil and military approval from countries across four continents, including Europe and Australia.
Airbus is in the process of increasing its flight time without refuelling from 25 days to 40 days. Simultaneously the payload capacity would be raised from 5kg to 20kg for efficient deployment during natural disasters and wartime situations. Wingspan would be spread out to 33 metres for enabling higher absorption of sun rays leading to better solar energy storage.