US Army 82-foot wingspan drone keep flying for 40th day now
WASHINGTON — Airbus’ prototype Zephyr high-altitude reconnaissance, surveillance, and spy drone is still flying non-stop in the skies over Arizona and will only be brought down when weather conditions deteriorate. The American online portal last reported two days ago that on the 38th day the drone was still flying, and today [July 24] there is no information that it has fallen to the ground.
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The Zephyr is an Airbus project and its last test set a then-record – of 26 days in the air in 2018 [to be precise in 2018 the drone flew in the air for 25 days, 23 hours, and 57 minutes]. This record has already been broken as is clear at the moment.
The Zephyr is powered by solar energy through integrated solar panels and stations. That is the current purpose of this test flight – to check the efficiency of the solar panels and maintain the stations from a distance. It has a wingspan of 82 feet, weighs 165 pounds, and can fly at an altitude of 70,000 feet [nearly 21.33 km].
Airbus says the drone can carry a payload. So, in addition to real-time reconnaissance, the Zephyr can be used to transport cargo from one continent to another. Its reconnaissance capabilities are impressive, as Zephyr allows the integration of electro-optical, infrared, hyperspectral, passive radio frequency [RF] radar, synthetic aperture radar [SAR] radar, early warning, lidar, and automatic identification system [AIS].
The Zephyr can observe the Earth, Airbus claims because it allows the integration of OPAZ, an observation system developed by Airbus that enables Earth observation, providing extremely high-resolution electro-optical and infrared images.
The experiment that is currently being conducted is part of a series of experiments. In recent years, the Zephyr has flown in international airspace, over water, continuous flight using satellite communication controls, and a demonstration from the launch point.
Like previous experiments, this one is currently being conducted and controlled by the combatant commands, the Army’s Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance [ISR] Task Force and the US Army Program Executive Office – Aviation, and the Army’s Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/ Space [APNT/Space] Cross-Functional Team.
The US military says that if the plane is winterized in the coming weeks due to worsening weather conditions, one of the most important experiments will follow – a flight over the Pacific Ocean with a payload and overflight of multiple air defense systems.
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