After 14 Nights in the Air, QinetiQ Prepares to Land its Zephyr Solar Powered Unmanned Aircraft

By Qinetiq, PRNE
Thursday, July 22, 2010

FARNBOROUGH, England, July 23, 2010 - QinetiQ will today bring Zephyr
, its solar powered high-altitude long endurance (HALE) Unmanned Air
System (UAS) back to earth after two weeks in the air - smashing a number of
long-standing official and unofficial world records.

Zephyr was launched on 09 July and is currently still flying above the US
Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. Today Zephyr will have been aloft for
14 nights continuously, achieving the objective of the trial and setting a
number of performance and altitude records. At this point QinetiQ's Zephyr
team in Yuma will bring the aircraft back to earth.

An official from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI)
(, the world air sports federation, has been monitoring
progress at the Yuma Proving Ground and when Zephyr is back on the ground he
looks set to be able to confirm a number of new world records. This includes
quadrupling its own unofficial world record for longest duration unmanned
flight (82 hours, 37 minutes set in 2008) and surpassing the current official
world record for the longest flight for an unmanned air system (set at 30
hours 24 minutes by Northrop Grumman's RQ-4A Global Hawk on 22 March 2001).
Zephyr will also have flown longer, non-stop and without refuelling, than any
other aeroplane - having significantly passed the Rutan Voyager milestone of
9 days (216 hours) 3 minutes and 44 seconds airborne, set in December 1986.

"Zephyr is the world's first and only truly persistent aeroplane," said
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

Easy to transport in a standard road transport container, once launched
Zephyr can remain above a general area for weeks, if not months, at a time
delivering vital capability at a fraction of the cost of satellites and
significantly more cost effectively than other 'conventionally powered'
manned or unmanned aircraft. Zephyr also does not need to return to base at
regular intervals for re-fuelling or servicing which helps minimise the
logistical supply chain, extending its operational capability and appeal. Its
zero emissions also make it exceptionally environmentally friendly.

For the trial in Yuma Zephyr is carrying a communications payload
configured to meet the needs of the UK Ministry of Defence. In addition to
the obvious defence and security applications, commercial uses include
environmental research; monitoring crops and pollution; providing tactical
intelligence over disaster zones or forest fires; plus delivering mobile
communications capabilities in remote areas.

Chris Kelleher, QinetiQ's chief designer said: "We have designed, built
and delivered what will be remembered as a milestone in aviation history.
Zephyr will transform the delivery of current services such as
communications, and lead to many new applications which are not possible or
affordable by other means.

"The brand-new 'production ready' Zephyr airframe incorporates totally
new approaches to aerodynamics, structures, propulsion, avionics, flight
controls, power system management, thermal control, ground control station
design and payload, as well as overall operating processes. Our outstanding
team has brought this entire 'one-shot' flight together at the first time of
asking, demonstrating we can operate both the aircraft and its ultra-light
utility payload routinely for long duration flights.

"We've also had to design for temperatures of around plus 40 degrees C
on the ground to below minus 75 degrees C at altitude, ever changing
weather systems including storms and high winds - and Zephyr took them all
in its stride. It is a truly fantastic achievement."

Launched by hand, the aircraft flies by day on solar power delivered by
amorphous silicon solar arrays, supplied by Uni-Solar (, no thicker than sheets of paper that cover the
aircraft's wings. These are also used to recharge the lithium-sulphur
batteries, supplied by Sion Power Inc (, which are
used to power the aircraft by night. Together they provide an extremely high
power to weight ratio on a continuous day/night cycle, thereby delivering
persistent on station capabilities.

Around 50% larger than the previous version, Zephyr incorporates an
entirely new wing design with a total wingspan of 22.5m to accommodate more
batteries that are combined with a totally new integrated power management
system. The entirely new aerodynamic shape also helps to reduce drag and
improve performance. Zephyr's ultra-lightweight carbon fibre design means it
weighs in at just over 50Kg.

- Zephyr launch video (

- Zephyr pages on

- Zephyr launch release with additional hi-res photos

(Due to the length of the URLs, it may be necessary to copy and paste
the hyperlink into your Internet browser's URL address field. Remove the
space if one exists.)

Note to Editors:

A picture accompanying this release is available through the PA
Photowire. It can be downloaded from or
viewed at or

Press office, tel +44(0)1252-39-3500, email:

Press office, tel +44(0)1252-39-3500 , email: pressoffice at

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