An ultra-light drone which can fly high non-stop for a year is being developed by defence firm BAE Systems.
The Phasa-35 aircraft will be made of carbon fibre not much thicker than tissue paper, and weigh just 150kg despite a wingspan larger than most commercial airliners.
It will be able to soar into the stratosphere where temperatures reach – 80C, and stay there for weeks powered by the sun.
The Phasa-35 aircraft will be made of carbon fibre not much thicker than tissue paper, and weigh just 150kg despite a wingspan larger than most commercial airliners
It could be used by the military for spying and communications – but would have many civilian applications too.
The drone is likely to be in demand from tech titans – such as Facebook, Google and Amazon – to help remote parts of the world access the internet.
It could also be used for everything from border surveillance and monitoring earthquakes and volcanos to science studies of ice floes and forest fires.
A year-long flight would easily beat the current world record of 14 days, held by Airbus’s Zephyr drone.
A quarter-size version has already flown successfully, and the full-scale aircraft is due to start flight testing in September next year.
BAE’s Solar-powered Spy Drone
- Maximum time airborne: one year
- Wingspan: 115ft, longer than a Boeing 727 passenger jet
- Weight: 150kg, less than an average motorcycle
- Maximum altitude: 70,000ft, twice cruising height of commercial aircraft
- Top speed: 90mph
- Propulsion: solar powered twin electric motors with high-altitude propellers