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US drone Zephyr crashes just before breaking world record

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HIGHLIGHTS :

  • The drone lost contact with ground controllers on August 19
  • The Zephyr S was previously tested by the Airbus Defense and Space team
  • The drone achieved flight duration of more than 64 days

With a wingspan of 75 feet and a weight of 166 pounds, the ultra-light aircraft can cruise for longer periods at higher altitudes.

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The drone lost contact with ground controllers on August 19

After more than two months of uninterrupted flying, a solar-powered drone that was being evaluated by the US military crashed in Arizona this month. The Zephyr S spent 64 days in the air and was close to breaking the record for the longest flight ever. The unmanned aircraft was launched by the US military as part of an ongoing air sensor experiment. Developed by aerospace company Airbus, the drone flew high into the stratosphere and collected vital data during its flight.

The drone achieved a flight duration of more than 64 days

However, according to a report by Simple Flying, the drone lost contact with ground controllers on August 19 and crashed before being lost. The Zephyr S was previously tested by the Airbus Defense and Space team, but long-haul flights lasted more than two weeks, this time with the drone achieving a flight duration of over 64 days.

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The Zephyr S was previously tested by the Airbus Defense and Space team

While the flight of the drone came to an abrupt end, the time spent in the air was not wasted. The drone developers and the US military collected data from the plane while it was orbiting the stratosphere. Now, the team is analyzing the data extensively and will use it for research purposes, as per the report.

With a wingspan of 75 feet and a weight of 166 pounds, the ultra-light aircraft can cruise for longer periods at higher altitudes. It is equipped with solar panels at the rear that collects sunlight during the day and power it during flight to keep the drone operational during the day and night.

With the help of unfiltered flight data from the ADS-B Exchange(Opens in a new window), the last moments of the Zephyr (callsign ZULU82) were tracked to 50,000 feet above the Arizona Desert. Following the completion of an S-shape maneuver, it experienced a rapid vertical descent reaching a top speed of 4,544 feet per minute before the inevitable happened.

The Zephyr smashed the previous record for drone flight duration in July,

which had been set in 2018 at a little under 26 days, as well as setting an altitude record for unmanned platforms of 76,100 feet. It was chasing the 1959 duration record, set by Robert Timm and John Cook, who flew a Cessna 172 non-stop for 64 days, 22 hours, and 19 minutes by refueling the aircraft from a moving truck, a trip that covered about 150,000 miles.

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The drone went down on August 19, after ground controllers lost contact with the aircraft over Arizona. It had been flying over the southwestern United States at over 60,000 feet. Moments before it crashed into the desert it had just performed an S-shape maneuver at over 50 knots before it plummeted out of the sky, falling at 4,544 feet per minute, according to Simple Flying, an aviation news site.

 

 

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