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The solar-powered, high-altitude long endurance (HALE) UAV previously known as the Qinetiq Zephyr, which is now part of the Airbus High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) program and called the Airbus Zephyr, has continued to break records in its first civil flight in the skies over Dubai earlier this month.
Having set three world records in a 2010 flight, including the record for the longest endurance flight for an unmanned aircraft of 336 hours, 22 minutes and 8 seconds, the Zephyr has now set a record of 61,696 ft (18,805 m) for the highest altitude reached in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), along with the longest flight in the UAE with the test flight lasting 23 hours and 47 minutes. This, according to GizMag.
With the ability to fly in the stratosphere, the Zephyr combines the benefits of a satellite in terms of altitude and applications, and an aircraft in terms of re-usability, flexibility and coverage.
The EIAST/Airbus team is targeting various applications for the aircraft, including thermal imaging, Full HD video imaging, environmental monitoring, emergency services support, the creation of temporary communications networks and the enhancement of navigation systems. The test flight saw the Zephyr equipped with a Full-HD video payload boasting 30 times zooming capability and providing imaging resolution of around 10 cm (4 in), depending on altitude.
The first generation of the HAPS aircraft that is projected to go into operation by the end of this year.