A BAE Systems unmanned aerial vehicle intended to bridge the gap between aircraft and satellites has moved one step closer to becoming a reality as it passed its latest series of tests.
The solar-powered PHASA-35, so named for its 35-metre wingspan, flies in the outer edges of the earth’s atmosphere and can reportedly sustain uninterrupted flight for up to a year at a time.
It latest trials saw the aircraft operate for 72 hours in a simulated environment that models the harsh stratospheric conditions in which the aircraft is designed to operate.
The latest tests were a collaborative effort by BAE Systems, Prismatic and the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), advancing the aircraft’s operational utility.
The 72-hour flight demonstrated the aircraft working effectively as a fully integrated system together with Dstl’s communications sensor payload – a radio frequency-sensing, software-defined radio that provides a real-time and secure data link.
BAE Systems said that the success further validated that the aircraft’s systems are capable of enduring the harsh temperature and pressure extremes experienced in the stratospheric environment.
The high altitude, long endurance, unmanned aerial vehicle (HALE UAV) has a wide range of potential applications such as the delivery of communications networks, including 5G, as well as support to disaster relief and border protection.
Ian Muldowney, COO, BAE Systems Air, commented: “PHASA-35 is a great example of how we’ve brought together the best in British expertise and partnered to drive technological innovation and deliver critical capability.
“This latest success, only eight months after PHASA-35’s maiden flight, further demonstrates how the UK industry and our partners are accelerating pace to deliver the UK’s vision for innovation, a Future Combat Air System and information advantage.”