After flying for almost 40 days, the Army solar drone keeps breaking its own record every minute. On June 15, Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona successfully hand-launched a lightweight drone with an 82-foot wingspan.
According to an article from Breaking Defense, this plane has been in orbit for 37 days. A spokesperson for the Army told PopSci that 40 days after it was launched, the Army solar drone is still flying.
With just a few watts of power, Airbus’s solar-powered drone can fly higher than 100,000 feet. “A single commercial light bulb” uses that much energy, according to a press release from the Army in October 2021.
The Zephyr has traveled a lot of distance. In 2010, it flew for two weeks, and also in 2018, it set a new record by flying nonstop for 26 days. PopSci named it one of the best new things that year.
A solar-powered military drone has been flying for the past 40 days
Since then, the Army has changed the Zephyr in a number of ways. “Design improvements make it a more capable system,” said Simon Taylor, who also runs the Zephyr program. “The software within the plane is what makes it different, not the plane itself. The planned air campaign is ambitious.” Official Army spokesperson: It took to the air for the second time in 2021. Each lasted 18 days.
Zephyr’s first flight of 2022 happened in June. The mission “demonstrated” Zephyr’s “energy storage capacity, battery longevity, solar panel efficiency, and also station-keeping skills,” the Army said on July 21. This drone has never gone into foreign airspace or water.
ISR can use drones like the Zephyr, which can fly for long periods of time in the stratosphere at altitudes higher than 60,000 feet. Michael Monteleone, who is in charge of the Army’s APNT/Space CFT, said that ultra-long endurance unmanned platforms could increase the military’s capabilities and confidence.
According to the army, there will be another Zephyr flight in the near future. Destination? It will probably “cross the Pacific.”