High-flying aircraft to run on sunshine for a year

Image: © BAE Systems

Defence and aviation giant BAE Systems is developing an unmanned aircraft that can fly for up to a year.

BAE Systems has signed an agreement with the aircraft’s original developer, Prismatic, to collaborate on the development of the new solar powered UAV known as PHASA-35 (standing for persistent high altitude solar aircraft with 35 metre wingspan). Work is underway to prepare the first aircraft for flight tests in 2019.

BAE says the aircraft would offer a year-round, low cost service for a wide range of needs including surveillance and vital communications to remote areas, using the sun to power the aircraft during the day and recharge the batteries for overnight operation.

The concept aircraft weighs 150 kg and uses elevator, rudder and differential thrust for flight control. Thrust comes from two brushless direct drive DC motors and payload is 15 kg. Operating altitude is between 55,000 and 70,000 feet, in the stratosphere, at airspeeds of 50-78 knots.

A quarter scale model named PHASE-8 made a successful flight in 2017.