QINETIQ AWARDED U.S. ZEPHYR CONTRACT
14 May 09. QinetiQ, Inc., Arlington, Va., is being awarded a $44,893,398 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the development and manufacture of seven Zephyr High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial systems and one ground station. The HALE will offer solar-powered, persistent coverage capability with mission durations of up to 3 months continuous operation. Work will be performed in Farnborough Hampshire, United Kingdom, and is expected to be completed in May 2014. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via a Broad Agency Announcement. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Lakehurst, N.J., is the contracting activity (N68335-09-C-0194).
On September 10 2007 QinetiQ’s Zephyr High Altitude Long Endurance
(HALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) has exceeded the official world record time for the longest duration unmanned flight with a 54 hour flight achieved during trials at the US Military’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The flight trials were funded through the Ministry of Defence (MOD) research programme.
The duration of the flight exceeded the current official FAI world record for unmanned flight which stands at 30 hours 24 minutes set by Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4A Global Hawk on 22 March 2001. However because there was no FAI official present at White Sands it may not stand as an official world record.
Launched by hand, Zephyr is an ultra-lightweight carbon-fibre aircraft with a wingspan of up to 18 metres but weighing just 30 kg. By day it flies on solar power generated by amorphous silicon arrays no thicker than sheets of paper that cover the aircraft’s wings. By night it is powered by rechargeable lithium-sulphur batteries that are recharged during the day using solar power.
The trials validated recent modifications that have improved the efficiency of Zephyr’s power system. These have included new solar arrays supplied by United Solar Ovonic, a full flight-set of Sion Power batteries as well as a novel solar-charger and bespoke autopilot developed by QinetiQ, all of which were being flown for the first time. During the trials the same aircraft was flown twice while carrying a surveillance payload – first for 54 hours to a maximum altitude of 58,355 feet, and then for 33 hours 43 minutes to a maximum altitude of 52,247 feet.
Paul Davey, Zephyr business development director at QinetiQ, said: “The
possibilities suggested by unmanned flight are truly exciting and with these trials Zephyr has secured its place in the history of UAV development. Both flights were achieved in the face of thunderstorms and debilitating heat in the hostile environment of the New Mexico high desert in the summertime. They have proved that an autonomous UAV can be operated on solar-electric power for the duration required to support persistent military operations.”
Potential applications for Zephyr include earth observation and communications relay in support of a range of defence, security and civil requirements.
Zephyr®, is a HALE UAV that provides a cost effective and persistent capability to collect and disseminate high quality data across wide areas. It has the potential for multi-month flight using solar-electric power and can support different payloads for surveillance and communications.
Zephyr is an ultra-lightweight carbon-fibre aircraft weighing around 30kg.
Applications for Zephyr include earth observation and communication relay.
• Zephyr’s lightweight structure allows it to travel non-stop over long
• The unique propeller design gives the aircraft a high power to weight ratio
• The wing design maximises on thermal air currents to lift the aircraft to high
• The aircraft flies day and night powered by solar energy – recharging its
batteries during the day
• No complicated launching mechanisms – the aircraft is launched by ha