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Airbus, UK MoD cites Zephyr trials success on path to ‘operationalising pseudo satellite'

The Zephyr HAPS achieved a number of world firsts in its latest flight trials campaign over the third quarter of the year, with the tests bringing the pseudo satellite closer to operational use with the UK MoD and potentially others. (Airbus)

Airbus and the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) have lauded the success of the most recent flight trials of its Zephyr unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), saying that the campaign over the third quarter of 2021 ‘represent an important step towards operationalising the pseudo satellite'.

On 11 October, the manufacturer of the Zephyr and its chief military customer said that the July and August flight trials out of Arizona in the United States had seen the high-altitude pseudo-satellite (HAPS) achieve several world firsts on its path to being declared ready for operations in the foreseeable future.

“The campaign consisted of six flights in total, four low-level test flights and two stratospheric flights. The stratospheric flights flew for around 18 days each, totalling more than 36 days of stratospheric flight in the campaign. This adds a further 887 flight hours to the 2,435 stratospheric flight hours for Zephyr to date, marks significant progress for fixed-wing HAPS and is a step towards making the stratosphere an operational reality for its customers,” Airbus said, adding that theZephyr set new absolute altitude record for this class of uncrewed aircraft at 76,100 ft. “Only the famous military U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird could operate at similar levels,” Airbus told Janes.

James Gavin, Future Capability Group Head at Defence Equipment and Support at the MoD, added, “Working with Airbus and the Zephyr team during the 2021 flight campaign, significant progress has been made towards demonstrating HAPS as a capability. This summer's activities represent an important step towards operationalising the stratosphere.”

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