High above the US Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, world records are being broken by a waify aircraft called the Zephyr. We recently reported on the Solar Impulse flying the first 24-hour flight and proving that a sun-powered plane can fly at night, but the Zephyr has blown that record out of the water with its almost complete 2 week-long flight!
The Zephyr has been floating above Arizona for about 240 hours as of now, and by Friday will have reached a seemingly impossible 336 hours in the air. The craft is meant to be used as a surveillance plane, keeping a watchful eye for extended periods of time over pieces of land that are of interest to military and civilian groups. Though we think it’s a bit creepy to know we might be watched for that amount of time, we’d rather be spied on by this solar beauty than one powered by fossil fuels!
The Zephyr was created by QinetiQ, a British defense technology company in hopes of being able to sustain “low-cost, persistent surveillance capability over months rather than days.” The plane has had other test flights, but this is the longest by far and QinetiQ and the Air Force hope that the current flight proves the drone’s capabilities. The plane weighs in at 110 pounds, has a 74-foot wingspan, is launched by hand and is powered by silicon solar arrays that feed lithium-sulfur batteries.