Solar-powered drone makes record flight

LONDON, July 26 (UPI) -- A British-made, solar-powered drone has made a record-breaking flight of 14 days and 24 minutes.

QinetiQ UK Technology Solutions Group reported the unmanned aerial vehicle was launched July 9 for a flight to the United Kingdom from the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.


The vehicle, named Zephyr, carried a British Ministry of Defense communications relay package as part of the test flight, news reports said.

The UAV has a wingspan of 74.25 feet. QinetiQ said solar arrays power the aircraft by day while lithium-sulfur batteries cut in to provide the power source at night.

According to QinetiQ's chief designer, Chris Kelleher, the Zephyr can withstand temperatures of more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit on the ground and less than minus-75 degrees at altitude.

"We are really proud of the team's achievement which has been supported by expertise from across the QinetiQ business and beyond," Neville Salkeld, managing director of QinetiQ's UK Technology Solutions Group said. "We've now proved that this amazing aircraft is capable of providing a cost effective, persistent surveillance and communications capability measured in terms of weeks, if not months.

"Not only is Zephyr game-changing technology, it is also significantly more cost effective to manufacture and deploy than traditional aircraft and satellites."


Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk had previously had the record for unmanned flight -- 30 hours, 24 minutes.

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