QinetiQ says it has broken the unmanned flight record with its ultra-lightweight Zephyr, which is built from carbon fiber and powered using paper-thin solar panels:
QinetiQ Group PLC said its propeller-driven “Zephyr” aircraft flew for 83 hours and 37 minutes, more than doubling the official world record set by Northrop Grumman’s “Global Hawk” in 2001.
The 66 pound- (30 kilogram-) plane was launched by hand on July 28 in the Arizona desert in the United States and flown by autopilot and via satellite to an altitude of more 60,000 feet (18,000 meters), QinetiQ said.
Drawing on the power of the sun during the day, the plane stayed aloft at night using rechargeable lithium-sulphur batteries. Its more than three-day flight began on July 28 and was witnessed by U.S. and British defense officials, the company said.
QinetiQ said the Zephyr, which is funded by a host of U.S. and British military agencies, had potential in the fields of reconnaissance and communications.