Airbus and Williams to collaborate on Zephyr

Zephyr is a solar-powered unmanned air vehicle.

Under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between Airbus and Williams Advanced Engineering at Farnborough on December 18, the two companies will collaborate to explore potential areas of technological development for the Zephyr high altitude pseudo satellite programme.

Zephyr is a solar-powered UAS that can carry a 5kg (11lb) payload to 65,000ft (19,812m), with an endurance of between 14 and 40 days. Payloads can include voice and data communication systems and high-resolution optical imagery.

The UK MoD has ordered three Zephyr S (alternatively named Zephyr 8) systems for trials. The larger twin-tailed Zephyr T, now under development by Airbus, will have a payload of up to 25kg (55lb) and an expanded range of sensors, which will include radar.

Williams Advanced Engineering is the engineering and technology division of Williams Grand Prix Engineering, famous in the motor sport world. Under the MoU, Airbus and Williams will explore innovation such as lightweight composite materials and advanced battery technologies.

Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus, said: “We have enormous respect for Williams Advanced Engineering’s technical expertise and achievements.

Our engineering teams are thrilled to learn from the Formula 1 world and are just as enthusiastic about sharing much of what we have learned in developing solutions to high-altitude, solar-powered flight.” Nigel Pittaway