A British-designed, solar-powered aircraft today finally landed after shattering the endurance record for an unmanned plane.
The Zephyr completed two weeks of non-stop flight above a US Army range in Arizona before finally coming in to land.
It has more than doubled the unofficial record of more than 82 hours already held by Zephyr and has smashed the official record of more than 30 hours set in 2001.
The Zephyr is the creation of Hampshire-based defense and research company QinetiQ. `Zephyr is the world`s first and only truly persistent aeroplane,` said Neville Salkeld, MD of QinetiQ`s UK Technology Solutions Group.
The aircraft flies by day on solar power delivered by amorphous silicon solar arrays no thicker than sheets of paper that cover the aircraft`s wings. These are also used to recharge the lithium-sulphur batteries, which are used to power the aircraft by night. Zephyr`s ultra-lightweight carbon-fibre design also means it weighs in at just over 50kg.
QinetiQ says it will save the military money, performing many of the tasks currently carried out by manned aircraft. It will also find a civilian use helping communications in disaster relief situations, as well as forest fire monitoring.
BDST: 1455 HRS, 24 July 2010