Airbus’ Solar Drone – level 3
Airbus opened a production facility for its solar-powered unmanned Zephyr aircraft which will be flying in altitudes of 18–21 kilometres above the ground.
Zephyr is a High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) which fills the gap between satellites and UAVs. It will fly in the stratosphere above the weather and conventional air traffic, harnessing solar energy and able to fly for months at a time.
Airbus says that the aircraft will revolutionise defence, humanitarian and environmental missions all over the world. However, with the facility being able to produce only up to 30 aircraft a year, the project is at its beginning.
The smaller production model has a wingspan of 25 metres and weighs less than 75 kg. It is able to provide the Internet, radar, and take pictures and video – from the 18-to-21-kilometre height, it will be able to see objects as small as 15 centimetres.
Difficult words: altitude (a height), UAV (an unmanned aerial vehicle), stratosphere (the lowest level of the atmosphere), harness (make use of).
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