The Zephyr drone, developed by Airbus in collaboration with the U.S. Army, is the first of its kind high-altitude Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). Built to be adaptable and long-lasting in the stratosphere, the Zephyr set a new record of 42 days of uncrewed flight duration.

Known as a High-Altitude Platform Station (HAPS), the Zephyr’s onboard batteries are solar-powered and designed for long endurance missions. The recent flight highlighted the solar-powered UAS’s energy storage capacity and solar panel efficiency that will allow the Army to use the drone for these long endurance missions that could last for months at a time. Because of the solar-powered energy system, the Zephyr is carbon neutral. 

The Zephyr’s wingspan is an impressive 82 feet, and the aircraft weighs in at only 165 pounds thanks for the carbon fiber composite fuselage. The lightweight construction allows the Zephyr to carry payloads of up to 50 pounds at altitudes of 70,000 feet. The Zephyr is also built to observe ground area covering 12 by 18 miles which will allow the Army to use it for security surveillance.  

The Zephyr may also be used as a communications relay platform. “Our connectivity services will provide a viable alternative and complement to terrestrial and satellite-based connectivity solutions, allowing for the first time low-latency and direct-to-device connectivity across vast geographies, and economically. Our sustainable technology allows us to save and improve people’s lives whilst ensuring a better outcome for our planet,” said Samer Halawi, chief executive officer of Airbus HAPS Connectivity Solutions.  

“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 U.S. Army Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space (APNT/Space) Cross-Functional Team (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.”