PHASA-35 completes first flight

BAE Systems has announced that its Persistent High-Altitude Solar Aircraft (PHASA-35) has successfully completed its maiden flight.

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) – which has a 35m (114ft) wingspan and is solar-electric powered – has been designed, built and flown as part of a collaboration between BAE Systems and Prismatic Ltd. The PHASA-35 programme has been sponsored by the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG).

The flight took place at the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF’s) Woomera Test Range in South Australia and marks the first fully integrated flight-test of the PHASA-35 system.

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The PHASA-35 in flight. BAE Systems

In a press release, BAE Systems said: “PHASA-35 is designed to provide a persistent, stable platform for monitoring, surveillance, communications and security applications. When connected to other technologies and assets, it will provide both military and commercial customers with capabilities that are not currently available from existing air and space platforms.”

The UAV will also have the potential to deliver communications networks including 5G services – along with others, including supporting border protection and disaster relief operations – at a fraction of the cost of satellites.

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The PHASA-35 takes flight for the first time. BAE Systems

Ian Muldowney, engineering director at BAE Systems, said: “This is an outstanding early result that demonstrates the pace that can be achieved when we bring the best of British capability together. To go from design to flight in less than two years shows that we can rise to the challenge the UK government has set industry to deliver a Future Combat Air System within the next decade.”

Further flight trials with the PHASA-35 are expected to take place later this year, with the possibility of the platform entering initial operations with customers within a year of the flight-test programme's completion.