High-Altitude Solar UAV Makes First Flight

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A 35-meter wingspan solar-powered aircraft has successfully completed its maiden flight. The PHASA-35’s first flight helps pave the way to revolutionize aircraft and satellite technology.

As part of a collaboration between BAE Systems and Prismatic, PHASA-35 has been designed, built, and flown all in less than two years. The unmanned aircraft was designed to operate in the stratosphere, where it would operate as an affordable alternative to satellites. The aircraft could be used for a wide range of applications including forest fire detection, maritime surveillance, and more.

The United Kingdom’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) have helped sponsor the flight trials which took place in Southern Australia.

The aircraft’s flight marks the first fully integrated flight test of the PHASA-35 system. The aircraft has the same wingspan of an Airbus A-320 meters and weighs only 150 kilograms.

Uasvision.com reports that the PHASA-35 is powered by the sun during the day and by batteries overnight. The engineers behind the solar powered aircraft claim that the aircraft will be capable of maintaining flight for up to a year in the upper atmosphere.

PHASA-35 has been designed to provide a platform for monitoring, communications, surveillance, and other applications. The system will provide military and civilian customers capabilities that are currently unavailable from existing space and air platforms. The system has the potential to assist with disaster relief, border protection, and delivery of communication networks such as 5G.

“This is an outstanding early result that demonstrates the pace that can be achieved when we bring the best of British capability together,” said the Engineering Director at BAE Systems, Ian Muldowney. “To go from design to flight in less than two years shows that we can rise to the challenge the UK Government has set industry to deliver a Future Combat Air System within the next decade.”

Additional flight trials are scheduled for this year, with the possibility that the PHASA-35 will begin initial operations with customers within a year of completing the flight trials.