After setting an ultra-endurance record, the Army Zephyr drone continues to fly whether it likes it or not


The Zephyr high-altitude platform broke its own world record for longest-duration UAS flight in a recent experiment with the military. (Courtesy photo via DVIDS)

WASHINGTON: For 37 days, a slender and disturbing silhouette has been prowling far, far above us Earthlings, but it’s not a UFO for the Pentagon new “Anomaly resolution office for all domains” to be studied. It’s an army unmanned aircraft setting a world record for endurance flying – and no one, including the army, knows exactly when it will fall.

The military announced on Thursday that its stratospheric ultra-long endurance unmanned aerial system known as the Zephyr had been flying for 36 days and counting, demolishing its previous record of 26 days. But it’s still up there in the sky above Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, where it will remain until weather conditions are ‘ideal’ to bring it down, a spokesperson said today. from the army to Breaking Defense.

Since June 15, the Army’s Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space (APNT/Space) cross-functional team has been experimenting with the high-altitude capabilities of the Airbus-built Zephyr as the service researches new services intelligence, surveillance and high altitude reconnaissance capabilities.

According to an Army Futures Command press release, the current flight demonstrated energy storage capacity, battery life, solar panel efficiency, and station-keeping capabilities that “will continue the Army’s goal of implementing ultra-long endurance stratospheric UAS capabilities”. The Zephyr, which has an 82-foot wingspan and weighs just 165 pounds, can fly “about” 70,000 feet, according to the manufacturer’s Airbus website.

“Ultra-long-endurance unmanned platforms have the potential to provide significant military capabilities and increased confidence as part of the military’s diverse multi-layered architecture,” said Michael Monteleone, director of APNT/ SpaceCFT. “We have seen incredible advancements in high altitude platforms in recent years. This experimentation allows us to leverage this knowledge by demonstrating multiple payload types, fully exploring the military utility of stratospheric operations, and modernizing the areas of deep sensing, long-range targeting, and resilient communications.

The Zephyr achieved a series of firsts during the recent experience, including its first flight in international airspace, its first flight over water, the longest continuous flight using satellite communications commands and the farthest demonstration from its launch point, while carrying a commercial, off-the-shelf payload, according to the Army.

The experimentation was carried out with the APNT-CFT, which cooperated with the combatant commands, the army’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) task force and the program executive office of the US Army – Air Force.

Assuming the plane lands at some point, the military has planned a second flight in the “coming weeks” over the Pacific. This flight “will demonstrate a prototype payload developed by Army Futures Command (AFC) on multiple fighter commands and continue to inform high altitude requirements,” the statement said.


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