The U.S. Army is conducting high-altitude experimentation with a stratospheric unmanned air system (UAS).
According to a press release from Army Futures Command, the Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space (APNT/Space) Cross-Functional Team (CFT) is conducting stratospheric experimentation that utilizes the Zephyr ultra-long endurance stratospheric UAS.
The first flight of 2022, which launched on June 15, has demonstrated Zephyr’s energy storage capacity, battery longevity, solar panel efficiency and station-keeping abilities that will further the Army’s goal to implement ultra-long endurance stratospheric UAS capabilities.
During this flight, the Zephyr accomplished a number of firsts, including its first flight into international airspace, first flight over water, longest continuous flight utilizing satellite communication controls, and the farthest demonstration from its launch point, while carrying a commercial, off-the-shelf payload. This flight has flown for a record number of days – 36 so far – and is still flying over Yuma Proving Ground.
“Ultra-long endurance unmanned platforms have the potential to provide significant military capabilities and enhanced confidence as part of the Army’s diversified multi-layered architecture,” said Michael Monteleone, Director of the APNT/Space CFT. “We have seen incredible progress in high-altitude platforms in recent years. This experimentation allows us to build on that knowledge by demonstrating multiple payload types, fully exploring the military utility of stratospheric operations, and modernizing areas of deep sensing, long-range targeting and resilient communications.”
A second Zephyr flight will launch in the coming weeks and travel over the Pacific Ocean. This flight will demonstrate an Army Futures Command (AFC)-developed prototype payload over multiple combatant commands, and continue to inform high altitude requirements.
The Airbus-developed Zephyr is the first high-altitude UAS of its kind, providing a persistent and adaptable longevity in the stratosphere. This experiment is performed in cooperation with the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Task Force, U.S. Army Program Executive Office – Aviation, and with multiple combatant commands under an Other Transaction Authority (OTA), with T2S Solutions LLC as the integrator.