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Airbus to establish Zephyr flight test centre in Western Australia

05 June 2018
Test flights for the Zephyr UAV will be flown out of Western Australia, the territory's government announced on 5 June. Source: Airbus

Airbus has selected Wyndham Airport in Western Australia to be the primary flight test centre for its Zephyr ‘pseudo-satellite’ unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The Government of Western Australia said on 5 June that Airbus is to establish a site for the High Altitude Pseudo Satellites (HAPS) programme at the site in the remote far north of both the territory and the country.

“The choice of Wyndham [was made] due to the largely unrestricted airspace and reliable weather, together with the strong support provided by the Western Australian Government,” a statement said.

As noted by the office of the Western Australia premier, Mark McGowan, his government has been working with Airbus since February to establish the solar-powered Zephyr at Wyndham Airport, and that in March the territory’s Defence Issues Minister Paul Papalia visited Airbus at Farnborough in the UK to be briefed on the company’s proposal and to provide state government support.

A spokesperson for Airbus told Jane’s that the HAPS programme will continue to be headquartered at Farnborough, but that another site was needed for flight trials due to regulatory and weather issues. Airbus will begin flights from the Wyndham facility in the second half of this year.

The Zephyr is designed to operate for up to 45 days at a time at altitudes of up to 70,000 ft to remain clear of the weather and commercial air traffic. Potential payloads include an over-the-horizon communications relay for line-of-sight communications and/or a surveillance payload. The latest Zephyr-T (Twin-tail) being developed by Airbus DS increases the wingspan of the baseline aircraft from 25 m to 33 m, enabling it to carry as 20 kg payload.

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