Illustration picture of Airbus-built High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite Zephyr

Solar flight

Harvesting the sun’s rays to power aircraft

The sun’s rays bathe our planet with vast amounts of energy – approximately 885 million terawatt hours every year. At Airbus, we work to harvest this alternative renewable energy source to power cleaner and high-endurance stratospheric flight.

Taking unmanned aerial vehicles into the stratosphere

Today, Airbus is advancing solar cell technology to enable unmanned aerial vehicles to stay aloft in the stratosphere for extended periods – using only sunlight as energy.

 

Our work in solar flight is focused on:

  • Developing advanced photovoltaic solar panels that are lighter, more flexible and capable of capturing more energy per m2 of surface,
  • Converting captured solar energy into electrical energy to power an electric-propulsion system and other onboard equipment,
  • Harnessing solar energy into a rechargeable energy storage system, thereby enabling the aircraft to fly at night with unlimited autonomy.

 

Our flagship programme, Zephyr, is a high-altitude pseudo-satellite that is powered exclusively by solar power.

Zephyr is reaching the stratosphere, and will fly persistently around 70,000ft, meaning it can avoid conventional air traffic and operate without interfering with other airspace users

Zephyr

Pioneering the stratosphere

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Electric flight

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