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Airbus Conducts Winter Test of Zephyr 7 ‘Psuedo-Satellite’

By Caleb Henry | August 28, 2014
      Airbus Zephyr 7

      An Airbus Zephyr test flight. Photo: Airbus

      [Via Satellite 08-28-2014] Airbus Defence and Space has completed a nonstop 11-day flight test of its Zephyr 7 High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS). The Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) runs on solar power, making the shorter winter days a much more challenging test. The vehicles were also controlled and monitored through satellite communications for the first time.

      Airbus intends to use the Zephyr HAPS to fill a void between drones and satellites. HAPS can provide constant communications over several hundred miles in a manner similar to satellites for long periods of time.

      The Zephyr 7 winter test, conducted in the Southern Hemisphere by the U.K. Ministry of Defence (MOD), provided more than 250 hours of flight testing, which will influence the next generation Zephyr 8 HAPS. Currently the Airbus Zephyr holds the world record for the longest flight without refueling, lasting 14 days — 10 times longer than the closest aircraft. It has also flown at the highest altitude: 70,740 ft.

      “The use of the SatCom link to control the aircraft beyond line of sight of the ground station is another critical aspect that we needed to test to move towards a pseudo-satellite form of operation where the Zephyrs can be controlled across the world from a central control station,” said Jens Federhen, Head of the Airbus HAPS program.