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DAY 44

DAY 44

MEET A SUN-KISSED HERO

Zephyr flies long and high to revolutionise all kinds of missions

What runs on sunshine, is made of fibres no thicker than a human hair and can fly for 25 days, 23 hours and 57 minutes without stopping? 

Zephyr, a high altitude pseudo satellite, which set off on its record breaking flight on 11th July 2018, landing nearly 26 days later after the longest endurance flight any aeroplane has ever made without refuelling. 

But the true significance of this flight lies in Zephyr’s ability to revolutionise defence, humanitarian, and environmental missions all over the world.

Sophie Thomas, Programme Head of Zephyr, explains that Zephyr can “help track pirates off the Horn of Africa, alert authorities about where and how fast forest fires are spreading, and ensure that soldiers' communications remain unaffected when fighting in mountainous or hilly terrain.”

Zephyr has a wide range of uses, and Airbus engineers are currently working on a number that will have real impact on people across many parts of the world:


“All air vehicles are limited by physics, some by imagination, all others by fuel.”

Chris Kelleher, Inventor of Zephyr, UK

Meet a sun-kissed hero
Tracking wild fires
Connecting the unconnected
Monitoring environmental change

Zephyr combines persistence – the ability to fly for long periods at a time – with flexibility. Zephyr’s launch requirements are simple compared to traditional aviation. No runway, and no airport is needed – Zephyr simply needs a large flat area, somewhere to be stored between flights, and space for ground control station which can be built into a 20ft container.   

As Sophie Thomas says, “It’s easy to retask Zephyr during flight to go to a new location, or to land, fit a different payload and launch again quickly to do a different mission.”

This means that, during a bush fire management mission for instance, after the need for fire detection has passed, Zephyr can easily land and quickly launch again carrying communications technology, connecting people where infrastructure has been destroyed.


“It’s easy to retask Zephyr during flight to go to a new location, or to land, fit a different payload and launch again quickly to do a different mission.”

Sophie Thomas, Programme Head of Zephyr

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