A British designed unmanned aircraft has completed a week flying non-stop over the US Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The plane took off last Friday and is still in the air. The "Zephyr", has outstripped the official world record for longest duration unmanned flight (30 hours 24 minutes, set by the RQ-4A Global Hawk in 2001).
The plane developed by the Hampshire, UK-based, defence and research company Qinetiq would be brought down once it has flown non-stop for a fortnight, according to Zephyr project manager Jon Saltmarsh.
The UAV has been in the development process over a number of years at Qinetiq. Such solar powered high-altitude long-endurance (Hale) UAVs are expected to have a wide range of applications in the future.
The military would like to put them to use as platforms for reconnaissance and communications and civilian and scientific programmes would equip them with small payloads for duties related to earth observation.
The Zephyr uses electricity produced by its solar cells recharging its batteries during the daytime and runs off the stored power at night.
It would be used carry out surveillance and communications-relay tasks above the battlefield, where it would offer a long-endurance alternative to normal aircraft or satellites.