Unmanned solar-powered aircraft completes test flight

BAE Systems has announced the successful first flight of a solar-electric unmanned craft which has been developed by the firm's Lancashire engineers.

The 35m-wingspan PHASA-35 operates in the stratosphere, above the weather and conventional air traffic. It is powered by batteries during the day and by batteries at night, with the potential to stay airborne for a year.

Engineers say it bridges aircraft and satellite technology and can be used on mission including forest fire detection and maritime surveillance.

The project is a collaboration between BAE and Prismatic, sponsored by he UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and Australian Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG). The first flight took place at the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Woomera Test Range in South Australia.

Ian Muldowney, engineering director for BAE Systems, said: "This is an outstanding early result that demonstrates the pace that can be achieved when we bring the best of British capability together. To go from design to flight in less than two years shows that we can rise to the challenge the UK government has set industry to deliver a Future Combat Air System within the next decade."

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