Airbus tested the Airbus Zephyr: it spent about three weeks in the air without landing. On average, electric aircraft of this type can stay in the air for up to 26 days.
To date, the Zephyr electric plane has taken off six times, four of them at low altitude, and two into the stratosphere. The last flights lasted 18 days. Airbus said that their development could be in the air for months without landings.
The main task of the drone is to distribute the Internet. Zephyr can also be used to monitor disasters such as forest fires and oil spills.
The drone has been airborne for so long thanks to several features – the hull is engineered from lightweight carbon fiber, and the 28m wingspan is completely covered with 350 watts per square meter of gallium arsenide solar panels. As a result, the device generates enough power to start the engines at 0.6 horsepower.
The resulting energy is stored in lithium-ion nanowire batteries: they are about 8-10 times more efficient than conventional batteries with a graphite electrode.
Airbus said that the flight time will increase, first to three months, and then to six months. The company also noted that their development is cheaper than launching a satellite and does less harm to nature.