Airbus solar-powered HAPS drone sets records in testing

Airbus has announced its Zephyr solar-powered high-altitude platform system (HAPS) drone has completed a barrage of summer tests in Arizona, including what the European aviation consortium described as a record-setting 36 days of flight time spread over a two-day mission. 

The trials were carried out at both lower and stratospheric altitudes, the latter of which involved one mission that Airbus says set a new, 76,100-foot world record for Zephyr’s category of solar-powered HAPS drone. The series of six total flights – including two in the stratosphere – focused not only on proving the craft’s endurance, but also putting it through a series of tests using an array of onboard applications. 

Chief among those was the “Optical Advanced Earth Observation system for Zephyr” payload, which is designed to provide users instant, uninterrupted, and enhanced situational awareness. Airbus said the trials were designed to demonstrate the plane’s utility to…