‘Eternal plane’ Zephyr returns to Earth after record 2 weeks

July 24th, 2010 - 12:59 pm ICT by ANI  

London, July 24 (ANI): The UK-built Zephyr unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is officially the first ‘eternal plane’ in aviation history.

The solar powered craft has flown unmanned for two weeks before being commanded to land.

Zephyr will be credited with a new world endurance record (336 hours, 24 minutes) for an unmanned, un-refuelled aircraft.

Built by the Qinetiq company, it has smashed all endurance records for an un-piloted vehicle before it touched down on Friday.

“It’s the culmination of a lot of years of effort from a huge number of really talented scientists and engineers,” BBC quoted project manager Jon Saltmarsh as saying.

At 60,000 feet, its amorphous silicon solar arrays received enough sunshine to keep its two propellers turning.

At night, Zephyr lost some altitude but the energy stored in the batteries was more than sufficient to maintain the plane in the air.

The military will want to use UAVs as reconnaissance and communications platforms, while scientific programmes will equip them with small payloads for Earth observation duties.

Their unique selling point is their persistence over a location.

Low-Earth orbiting satellites come and go in a swift pass overhead, and the bigger drones now operated by the military still need to return to base at regular intervals for refuelling. (ANI)

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