The Strategist

Solar Energy to Help British Intelligence

02/04/2016 - 15:20

UK Ministry of Defence will purchase two UAVs equipped with solar panels from Airbus Defence and Space. We are talking about drones Zephyr, which keep the watch at an altitude of 20 km during two weeks.

According to Minister of Defense Michael Fallon speaking during a briefing, his department intends to conclude a contract with Airbus Defence and Space for the supply of two new UAVs Zephyr 8. Their peculiarity is that they are equipped with solar panels and are "able to fly higher and longer" than manned aircraft. The cost of the contract is estimated at £ 10.6 million and therefore the purchase of the UAV will cost the country's Defense Ministry less than buying a manned aircraft with equivalent characteristics. Zephyr 8 can overlook over a considerable area, being in constant flight during a few weeks. In addition to photographing the area, they are capable to shoot video, and the maximum height of the flight is 20 km.

Zephyr was originally developed by company Qinetiq Group - a former research laboratory of the UK Ministry of Defence, which was bought out by Airbus in 2013. According to the European aviation corporation’s statements, this UAV is currently the only not manned aircraft, which managed to demonstrate stable solar-powered performance. According to the specs, Zephyr 8 can stay in the air up to three months. The drone weighs about 30 kg and can carry cargos five times heavier than the aircraft itself.