Solar aircraft lands after 14 days and 24 minutes

QinetiQ's Zephyr solar aircraft being launched
QinetiQ's Zephyr solar aircraft being launched

“Zephyr is the world's first and only truly persistent aeroplane,” says Neville Salkeld, MD of QinetiQ’s UK Technology Solutions Group.

"We are really proud of the team’s achievement which has been supported by expertise from across the QinetiQ business and beyond. 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."

Easy to transport in a standard road transport container, once launched Zephyr can remain above a general area for weeks, if not months.

Launched by hand, the aircraft flies by day on solar power delivered by amorphous silicon solar arrays, supplied by Uni-Solar, that cover the aircraft's wings.

The solar panels are also used to recharge the lithium-sulphur batteries, supplied by Sion Power Inc, which are used to power the aircraft by night.