Following recent news that Airbus has completed two 18-day long flights of its solar-powered aircraft, named Zephyr;
William Davies, Associate Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:
“In recent years there has been increasing pressure to pursue sustainable aviation solutions, with companies in the aerospace sector currently facing political and investor pressure to pursue alternative fuels. Airbus believes its new solar-powered aircraft is a perfect fit for sustainable aviation. The aircraft demonstrates that the company is advancing its investment in the sustainability sector. The Airbus Zephyr, specially designed High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS), is a carbon neutral option that sits in between a satellite and a conventional UAV.
“The Zephyr is a unique aircraft, as the solar cells within its wings power the aircraft during the day while also charging onboard batteries for night flying. However, it is still too soon to know if flying it in winter climates, where daylight is limited, will affect the longevity of the flight.
“Airbus has also invested in lightweight composition materials to facilitate a lighter airframe. So, despite being the third of the wingspan of an A380, this aircraft only weighs the amount of two airplane seats, or around 75kg.
“While the stated use of this aircraft is for providing broadband to remote areas, it also has military applications for surveillance and has the potential to stay in the air an indefinite amount of time above air traffic and any adverse weather. Zephyr could also provide a greener alternative to satellites, without the cost and work that satellites entail.
“Although Zephyr is unlikely to yield benefits for the civil aviation market, due to the power to weight requirements of manned flight, its utility in the unmanned sector is significant.”
* Source: GlobalData’s report: ESG in Aerospace and Defense.