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Airbus Zephyr breaks longest flight record by 11 days

Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:48 pm
by estorilm
I missed this a few days ago, but I'm surprised no one has mentioned it. They have broken the previous record (set by an earlier variant) by 11 days on the maiden flight, taking the flight time to nearly 26 days at ~70,000 feet.

Personally, it seems like a significant milestone and accomplishment in aviation history, but I guess it's not the most exciting of aircraft. The engineering behind it, however, is incredible.


How something with a 73' wingspan can stay aloft during the night using only a few kg worth of batteries blows my mind. :crazy:

Airbus Zephyr Drone Sets Record for the Longest Continuous Flight within Earth’s Atmosphere.
https://techstory.in/airbus-zephyr-drone-sets-record-for-the-longest-continuous-flight-within-earths-atmosphere/

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Re: Airbus Zephyr breaks longest flight record by 11 days

Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:57 pm
by keesje
estorilm wrote:
How something with a 73' wingspan can stay aloft during the night using only a few kg worth of batteries blows my mind. :crazy:


Well, it's allowed to do down a few miles, slowly.

The big question would be wath is the payload. Can it carry real powerful sensors / transmitting equipment.

Re: Airbus Zephyr breaks longest flight record by 11 days

Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 2:01 pm
by estorilm
keesje wrote:
estorilm wrote:
How something with a 73' wingspan can stay aloft during the night using only a few kg worth of batteries blows my mind. :crazy:


Well, it's allowed to do down a few miles, slowly.

I was wondering about that, for energy management - still pretty incredible. I guess because it's in the development phase they need to get it on the ground and check things out (with other variants being planned / built already).

I'd imagine it could have stayed up there for much much longer.

Re: Airbus Zephyr breaks longest flight record by 11 days

Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 2:03 pm
by Erebus
Nice to see it actually has a buyer and is not just an experimental prototype for research.

Re: Airbus Zephyr breaks longest flight record by 11 days

Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:23 pm
by mxaxai
estorilm wrote:

I'd imagine it could have stayed up there for much much longer.

Indeed. I wonder what the limiting factor is. Except for occasional scheduled checks there would be no reason for it to land.

Re: Airbus Zephyr breaks longest flight record by 11 days

Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:58 pm
by Loew
I can imagine this drone in civil usage, however I fail to see its military potential, eventhough British see it apparenty. It seems to be slow, fairly easy to shoot down and there is also no EMP protection apparently (yes i know, cold war era requirement). So yes, this could be definitely used for surveillance of some low tech countries (and yes, there are lots of those with wars taking place), however military use possibility against anyone else is fairly low. On the other hand, endurance of this drone is really incredible, I wonder what is its payload though.

Re: Airbus Zephyr breaks longest flight record by 11 days

Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:59 pm
by smokeybandit
Might be slow and easy to shoot down, but it'd be a lot harder to find to begin with. And probably (eventually) be much cheaper than other fixed wing alternatives

Re: Airbus Zephyr breaks longest flight record by 11 days

Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 4:08 pm
by LightningZ71
Believe it or not, solar panels can actually convert moonlight to a "non-trivial" amount of power. By "Non-trivial" I mean it's about 1/350th of what the panels would normally produce. While it certainly won't keep this thing aloft on its own, it will reduce the load on the batteries a bit. But they can't count on this though, moonless nights are a common occurrence, and it has to be able to sustain on battery alone as starlight likely won't even activate the PV effect of the panels.

Re: Airbus Zephyr breaks longest flight record by 11 days

Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 5:24 pm
by Erebus
Loew wrote:
I can imagine this drone in civil usage, however I fail to see its military potential, eventhough British see it apparenty. It seems to be slow, fairly easy to shoot down and there is also no EMP protection apparently (yes i know, cold war era requirement). So yes, this could be definitely used for surveillance of some low tech countries (and yes, there are lots of those with wars taking place), however military use possibility against anyone else is fairly low. On the other hand, endurance of this drone is really incredible, I wonder what is its payload though.


Military applications does not necessarily have to entail excursions into a foreign territory. It could be for use within one's own territory, perhaps for security surveillance of remote regions and borders. An aircraft that can do this for days autonomously without a lot of human intervention has got to be one of the cheapest and efficient ways to do this.

Re: Airbus Zephyr breaks longest flight record by 11 days

Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 7:40 pm
by smokeybandit
Could be a great resource for the national guard in response to natural (or man-made) disasters

Re: Airbus Zephyr breaks longest flight record by 11 days

Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:35 pm
by BaconButty
Loew wrote:
I can imagine this drone in civil usage, however I fail to see its military potential, eventhough British see it apparenty. It seems to be slow, fairly easy to shoot down and there is also no EMP protection apparently (yes i know, cold war era requirement). So yes, this could be definitely used for surveillance of some low tech countries (and yes, there are lots of those with wars taking place), however military use possibility against anyone else is fairly low. On the other hand, endurance of this drone is really incredible, I wonder what is its payload though.

I think you answered your own question - the west has bought a lot of equipment for asymmetric warfare that would struggle to operate in a non-permissive environment. At least it operates at 70,000 feet - outside the engagement envelope of many SAMS.

Re: Airbus Zephyr breaks longest flight record by 11 days

Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:06 pm
by Aesma
If by civil usage you mean by firefighters, law enforcement, etc., then that can be a lot of interested administrations.

Re: Airbus Zephyr breaks longest flight record by 11 days

Posted: Thu Aug 16, 2018 3:21 am
by oneskyjet
with a 35MPH speed, how does this aircraft maneuver meaningfully in the 100+ kt jet streams common at 70,000 feet?

Re: Airbus Zephyr breaks longest flight record by 11 days

Posted: Thu Aug 16, 2018 4:09 am
by Spacepope
oneskyjet wrote:
with a 35MPH speed, how does this aircraft maneuver meaningfully in the 100+ kt jet streams common at 70,000 feet?

The jet streams are much lower than that. At 70,000 feet the drone should operate well above most any weather.

Re: Airbus Zephyr breaks longest flight record by 11 days

Posted: Thu Aug 16, 2018 7:00 pm
by danj555
Does anyone know why they brought it down? Did it run out of juice or was their specific test over?