Uniquely designed for both military and commercial purposes, Zephyr can deliver numerous payload capabilities across two platforms. Zephyr S with its ability to carry payloads, offering voice, data communications both line of sight and beyond the line of sight, and line of sight high resolution optical imagery. Zephyr T carrying larger payloads offers the ability to bring more active payloads to the fore; for example, widespread, persistent internet coverage to remote areas of the globe, and active RADAR. Together they enable real-time mapping, internet and a number of surveillance opportunities to meet a broad range of requirements.
Airbus has two variants of the Zephyr designed to accommodate a variety of payload capacities.
Zephyr S is the name of the production variant of the Zephyr 8 vehicle.
The larger size of the Zephyr T (Twin) vehicle enables it to accommodate payloads with larger masses and continuous power in excess of 300W to accommodate for example RADAR, LIDAR,ESM/ELINT and Broadband CommsA key feature of the Zephyr family is that they share common avionics, software, power flosystems, propulsion design and command and control and aero-structural design and elements. This means that production of the larger vehicle follows closely on the success of the Zephyr S.
Why choose Zephyr?
Zephyr is the World leading High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) – a solar powered aircraft that, flying autonomously in the Stratosphere above cloud, air traffic and jet stream winds, provides persistent, regional services at significantly lower costs than conventional aircraft, UAVs or satellites.
The Prototype vehicle, Zephyr 7, has flown for over two weeks continuously, eight times longer than any other UAV and is the only solar powered UAV to have flown at the stratospheric altitudes required to allow continuous operation.
Zephyr World Records
Setting World records for endurance and altitude in 2010, which remain unsurpassed, and completing further long duration flight testing, Airbus have completed testing with this prototype and are now building the first operational vehicles – Zephyr S.
Making the world's best better
Whilst Zephyr 7, as the World’s only proven HAPS system, is already the World’s best HAPS,
Airbus have already identified and tested a significant number of ways in which the aircraft has been improved to produce the first operational vehicle, Zephyr 8. As well as reducing the mass, improving the efficiency and increasing the power available from the solar array and batteries, which enable the aircraft to fly year round at higher latitudes, Zephyr S is also capable of being flown beyond line of sight (BLOS) using a low mass, low power satellite communications system.
This deceptively simple concept requires that the aircraft be fully autonomous in its navigation, flight control and power management – operating in a similar way to Airbus’ satellites but with the added complexity of the atmosphere.
This satellite like approach to operations means that the cost of operations of HAPS is significantly reduced when compared with conventional UAVs and aircraft. Added to the long duration flight times – reducing cost of refurbishment and increasing time on station – and the zero fuel usage, shows solar powered HAPS even greater cost savings.
Zephyr S is now in production with the first order having been made by the United Kingdom
Ministry of Defence.
Flying at 20km altitude at a fixed location, Zephyr can see over 400km to the horizon and provide persistent high resolution imagery and high bandwidth communications to areas in excess of 1,000km2.
Whilst flying at 20km is high for an aircraft, it is very low for Airbus satellites, which fly at over
600km altitude to provide imagery of the Earth. This means that the Zephyr can produce very
accurate pictures of the Earth – down to 15cm resolution – using small, lightweight cameras.
And, of course, these pictures can be produced all the time, even as video or, using infrared
technology, at night.
Radar systems are also in development to allow Zephyr to provide 24/7, all weather surveillance,
making best use of the persistent presence.
Most regions of the World do not enjoy the communications provided by Fibre optic, wireless and
4G networks. The Geo-stationary Satellites that provide communications to these regions fly at
36,000km above the Earth and as such are limited by their capacity and latency – increasingly
important with the continuing demand for greater bandwidth and speed.
HAPS operating at 20km altitude can provide fast, high bandwidth communications to these
regions, which can then be linked together by radio or laser links – where the thin air and lack of
clouds makes optical links much simpler.
Zephyr has already demonstrated communications relay over a 400km range and Airbus are now
using their proven satellite communications expertise to develop broadband systems suitable for