Last year we brought you news of the Zephyr, an unmanned solar-powered airplane that shattered a world record with a flight of 54 hours. Not content with their initial achievement, the creators of the Zephyr decided to give it a second shot. This time the Zephyr flew for an incredible 82 hours and 37 minutes!
Qinetiq created the Zephyr as a high-altitude long endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). It is powered by lithium-sulpher batteries that are recharged during the day by the the paper-thin solar panels installed upon its wings. The airplane’s extremely light weight (about 30kg) combined with its highly efficient engine give it the potential for multi-month flights.
Unfortunately, the Zephyr’s latest flight didn’t quite meet the official regulations stated by the World Air Sports Federation, therefore the victory is unofficial, but it still counts as quite an impressive achievement on the part of QinetiQ.
While you don’t usually see military-related stories here at Inhabitat, here’s an eco-worthy exception: the Zephyr is an unmanned aerial vehicle, which is powered entirely by solar power. The emissions-free, solar-powered Zephyr recently made headlines by breaking the record for the longest-duration unmanned flight!
The Zephyr, developed by UK based QinetiQ, is a lightweight unmmaned aircraft which uses a combination of a solar array and batteries to power its flights. The plane weights a relatively low 31kg and has a wingspan of about 16 metres. The total flight lasted for a total of 54 hours, which, if you do the math, is a very impressive number for a solar powered vehicle. The Zephyr went for two straight nights without stopping or refueling relying on its solar powered batteries for flying. It made it all the way up to 18,000 meters (58,000 ft).
Unfortunately for the team, the first flight cannot be fully confirmed, as it was fairly top secret event, and thus they cannot claim the record. Before you ask though, the team did second attempt which resulted in a continuous 33 hour flight. This flight is currently being verified by the World Air Sports Federation. Meanwhile, we here at Inhabitat eagerly await for the launch of the manned Solar Plane, which we hope will someday be our mode of transportation around the world. Viva la sol!