Airbus selects Australian site as base for solar-powered Zephyr unmanned aircraft
5 June 2018
Unique high-flying aircraft will operate from Wyndham airfield, WA
Brisbane, 5 June 2018 – Airbus has selected Wyndham airfield in Western Australia as the first flight base for its pioneering Zephyr solar-powered unmanned aircraft, or drone.
The decision makes Wyndham the world’s first operational site for the launch and recovery of the class of unmanned aircraft known as High Altitude Pseudo Satellites (HAPS).
Airbus will begin flights of the Zephyr at Wyndham in the second half of this year. The aircraft is extremely lightweight and makes virtually zero noise as it leaves and returns to its base.
Wyndham will serve as the launch and recovery site for Zephyr which typically flies for days or weeks at a time without landing and operates at very high altitudes, far above even commercial airliners. Approximately 20 Airbus employees will be based in the local area during operations.
Tony Fraser, Managing Director Airbus Australia Pacific said: “We are extremely grateful to the Government of Western Australia and the Shire of Wyndham and East Kimberly for their support of the Zephyr programme. The combination of that support, largely unrestricted airspace and reliable weather make Wyndham an ideal location for these operations.”
The Zephyr S which will fly at Wyndham is the production version of the earlier Zephyr 7 aircraft which holds the world record for 14 days continuous flight, set in 2010.
It weighs less than 75kg (165lb) and flies by charging its batteries from sunlight during the day and maintaining its high altitude at night, all under control from the ground. The Zephyr operates at more than 65,000ft, above weather systems, for weeks at a time. The first production aircraft are being manufactured at Farnborough, UK.
It is uniquely capable of providing persistent surveillance over land or sea, and hosting communications links for civil or military purposes.
As well as for military operations, Zephyrs can be used for humanitarian missions, precision farming guidance, environmental and security monitoring, and to provide internet coverage to regions of poor or zero connectivity.
Airbus is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. In 2017 it generated revenues of € 59 billion restated for IFRS 15 and employed a workforce of around 129,000. Airbus offers the most comprehensive range of passenger airliners from 100 to more than 600 seats. Airbus is also a European leader providing tanker, combat, transport and mission aircraft, as well as one of the world’s leading space companies. In helicopters, Airbus provides the most efficient civil and military rotorcraft solutions worldwide.