Today in History – July 31, 2008 – To date, QinetiQ breaks unofficial world record for unmanned flight over three and a half days US Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The record is “unofficial” as QinetiQ conducted the research under a military contract to perform a military utility assessment of a US Government communications payload. The unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), called the Zephyr, is an ultra-lightweight carbon-fiber aircraft (wing shown below). It is initially launched by hand, then flies by day on solar power generated by amorphous silicon solar arrays no thicker than sheets of paper that cover the aircraft’s wings. Excess energy is stored in rechargeable lithium-sulphur batteries for use at night. The flight trial at Yuma took place between 28 and 31 July. It was flown on autopilot and via satellite communications to a maximum altitude of more than 60,000ft.
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