The Zephyr aircraft, developed by defence firm QinetiQ with funding from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the US Department of Defense, flew at altitudes of up to 60,000 feet powered solely by the solar cells on its wings and a small Lithium battery.
Andrew Baird, director Defence Technology and Innovation Centre for the UK MoD said: "MOD is very pleased with the success of the recent trial which demonstrated the potential capability of the technologies in Zephyr. This success has also reinforced the close working relationship between the UK and US on these key technologies."
The plane was originally developed to provide communications networks over battlefield areas but it is hoped that with longer flights it could be used to provide more permanent networking hubs for business and consumers over developing countries or in areas where natural disasters have cut existing data channels.
The plane is built of carbon fibre and has solar cells no thinker than paper covering its entire wingspan. It is hand launched and then either controlled remotely from the ground and by satellite relay.
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