Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Qinetiq: Zephyr UAV Set 3 World Records

Qinetiq said its solar-powered Zephyr UAV broke three world records during a recent test flight in the United States that reached an altitude of 70,740 feet.

The British defense research contractor also said the Zephyr broke two endurance records during a July flight from the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

The company said it has filed claims with the Federation Aeronautique Internationale and is awaiting ratification of the records.

The records in question are the maximum altitude for a UAV of 50 to 500 kilograms (70,740 feet), the absolute duration record for a UAV (336 hours, 22 minutes) and the duration record in the same weight category.

Zephyr, which weighs in at just over 50 kilograms, has a wingspan of 22.5 meters that is covered with paper-thin amorphous silicon solar arrays.

The UAV carried a communications relay package for a trial involving the U.K. Ministry of Defence.

A Qinetiq spokesman said the flight proved the technology and the capability. He said the company was now in conversation with potential customers about deploying the system.

AeroVironment holds the absolute world UAV altitude record with its solar-powered Helios, which reached nearly 97,000 feet in 2001. Helios, which was lost during a 2003 test flight, also holds the record for 500- to 2,500-kilogram UAVs.

On Aug. 4, the U.S. company test-flew its new Global Observer UAV on a one-hour battery-powered flight at altitudes up to 4,000 feet. A test program using a liquid-hydrogen fuel version is aiming at a weeklong flight. It is intended to operate between five and seven days at up to 65,000 feet.

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