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Solar plane makes record flight

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Image: QenetiQ

The Zephyr is a solar-powered, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) built by UK company QinetiQ. Between the 28th and 31st of July it set an unofficial world record for the duration of a flight by an unmanned aircraft. It stayed aloft in the skies above Arizona at 60,000 feet for over three days.

Zephyr is an ultra-lightweight carbon-fibre aircraft that is launched by hand and flies on the solar power generated by amorphous silicon arrays covering the aircraft’s wings (no thicker than sheets of paper). The solar power charges the aircraft's lithium-sulfur batteries, which power the aircraft's propellors by night and day.

The project has been funded by the UK Ministry of Defence and the US Department of Defense under the Joint Capablility Technology Demonstration Programme. This is designed to get urgently needed technologies into the hands of military commanders in Afghanistan.

QinetiQ aims to build aircraft fuelled by the sun, and this is an exciting development. Other uses for the Zephyr may include agriculture and disaster relief.

Cool, as Instapundit remarked.

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