Aerospace & Defense

Airbus seeks help from Formula One team to develop high altitude drone

Key Points
  • Airbus to tie up with Williams motorsport team on drone project
  • Williams sought for lightweight material and battery expertise
  • Drone will be solar-powered and fly at 65,000 feet
A rendering of how the latest version of Zephyr will look in flight.
Source: Airbus

The European aerospace giant Airbus has announced it is to work with the Williams motorsport team on a solar-powered and high-altitude drone.

Zephyr is an unmanned aerial system (UAS) designed to fly at 65,000 feet. The first production examples are being manufactured in England for the U.K.'s Ministry of Defence.

Airbus Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems, Jana Rosenmann, said in a press release Monday that the firm was "thrilled to have the opportunity to learn from the Formula 1 world."

The drone is being designed to fly unmanned and unfuelled for months on end, acting in a communications and surveillance role.

Airbus said it was looking to tap Williams' knowledge of both battery technology and lightweight materials. The Zephyr program began in 2003, with the first one built by the British company, QinetiQ.

The Zephyr 7 holds the official endurance record for an unrefuelled, unmanned aerial vehicle with its flight from July 9 to July 23, 2010, lasting 336 hours, 22 minutes and 8 seconds.

After being bought by Airbus in 2013, Zephyr has now become part of the firm's High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) program.