The Zephyr platform is a new class of unmanned air vehicle that operates as a high altitude pseudo-satellite enabling affordable, persistent, local satellite-like services.
The aircraft runs exclusively on solar power, and the Zephyr aircraft is at the forefront of the HAPS arena, holding world records with regards to absolute endurance (more than 14 days) and altitude (more than 70,000 feet).
The British Ministry of Defence currently has ordered two Zephyr S from Airbus Defence and Space. The Zephyr S has a wingspan of 25 meters, is 30 percent lighter and can carry 50 percent more batteries than its predecessor — the 22.5 meter wingspan Zephyr 7. This enables the Zephyr S to carry heavier payloads for surveillance and communications roles. The Zephyr S is designed to fly continuously for over a month before having to land. The vehicle can then be refurbished and redeployed.
MicroLink Devices has developed a lightweight, flexible, high-efficiency solar sheet that is an enabling technology for electrically powered, area and weight constrained applications such as unmanned air vehicles, which run on renewable energy. The combination of high-efficiency and low mass enabled by ELO-based solar cells provides superior performance compared to any other currently available solar cell technology platform. MicroLink’s ELO solar cells are a perfect match for the HAPS platform. The resulting solar sheets have specific powers in excess of 1,000 W/kg and areal powers greater than 250 W/m2. MicroLink’s ELO technology was sponsored by numerous US agencies including NASA, DARPA, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research, NAVAIR, Army Research Office, Army REF, CERDEC, and the Department of Energy.
We are extremely pleased to have developed a relationship with the Zephyr team four years ago and to transition our high-performance solar sheet development efforts into a production program,” said Dr. Noren Pan, president and CEO of MicroLink Devices. “We are also thankful to Airbus for their purchase order and the confidence they have in MicroLink’s solar sheet technology and manufacturing ability. We know of no other flexible solar sheet that offers a comparable performance in terms of power and weight and reliability under a wide temperature range.”
Steve Whitby, Head of HAPS Business Development said, “Our collaboration with MicroLink Devices in the development stages and in the current production program has enabled the latest generation of Zephyr HAPS, which is a critical addition to our extensive portfolio of space and defense products.
“MicroLink Devices is a world leader in the epitaxial liftoff of compound semiconductors providing outstanding performance for many semiconductor devices,” Whitby said. “Combining Airbus and MicroLink Devices engineering expertise has proven to be a successful platform for our on-going success.”