Airbus has set a world record for the longest continuously flying solar aircraft through their solar-powered drone. The drone flew for 26 days straight without taking a single break for refueling. Airbus aims that its solar drones can eventually be used as cheaper replacements for the satellites. The company has been working on its Zephyr S drone since 2015 and intends to provide a more affordable and versatile alternative for satellites. The drone weighs only 165 pounds which is as much as the weight of a person and is powered by an 80-foot wingspan covered by solar panels.
When flying at high altitudes, Zephyr is uninterrupted by cloud cover or other air traffic and can operate for months at a time. Zephyr has launched its maiden voyage on July 11 and has recently touched down again. Airbus says this flight is just the beginning and it hopes to run a much longer mission which will start later this year. By using this technology, various governments, companies, and organizations will have an option of a cheaper satellite alternative.
Airbus plans that its drone, Zephyr, can be used for airborne monitoring of disaster zones, long-term environmental studies, and even bringing wireless internet to underdeveloped areas. The company also aims to develop a more advanced vision of the Zephyr which is twice the size and is capable of carrying larger payloads.