The Joint Forces Command’s high altitude pseudo-satellite (HAPS) operational concept demonstrator aircraft has beaten the world flight endurance record by remaining airborne for more than 25 days without refuelling.
The Zephyr-S unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has the capability to operate in the stratosphere at an average altitude of 70,000ft while carrying out a wide range of operations, including land and maritime surveillance, and a number of communication tasks.
Operating completely on solar power, the operational concept demonstrator flies above conventional air traffic and can fill a capability gap complimentary to satellites, UAVs and manned aircraft in order to provide persistent local satellite-like services.
Developed by Airbus, the ultra-lightweight drone was airborne for 25 days, 23 hours and 57 minutes, surpassing the old record of 14 days, 22 minutes and eight seconds set by an earlier Zephyr UAV variant.
Joint Forces Command commander general Sir Chris Deverell said: “This is a great example of how Joint Forces Command is at the heart of innovation for UK defence.
“We are demonstrating new technology that puts our armed forces at the cutting edge of communication and surveillance.”
The aircraft is being delivered by the UK Defence Equipment and Support Technology Office under the Operational Concept Demonstrator contract signed with Airbus in 2016.
The deal involves the acquisition of a total of three Zephyr-S UAV platforms, with additional flight trials planned over the coming months.
The OCD will help the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) in understanding the use of advanced technologies in a HAPS capability to deliver operational effect for future acquisition projects.