Ground-breaking unmanned solar powered aircraft makes first flight
Test flights show the 35m wingspan solar-electric aircraft is poised to become a game changer in the air and space market
The Persistent High Altitude Solar Aircraft (PHASA-35®), a gamechanger with the potential to stay airborne for a year, has successfully completed its maiden flight.
PHASA-35 has been designed, built and now flown in less than two years as part of a collaboration between BAE Systems and Prismatic Ltd. Designed to operate unmanned in the stratosphere, above the weather and conventional air traffic, PHASA-35 offers a persistent and affordable alternative to satellites combined with the flexibility of an aircraft, which could be used for a range of valuable applications including forest fire detection and maritime surveillance.
Sponsored by the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and Australian Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), the successful flight trials took place at the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Woomera Test Range in South Australia.
The trials marked the first fully integrated flight test of the PHASA-35 system, delivering rapid proof of capability from design to flight in just 20 months. They are the culmination of efforts from a collaborative team of British experts from Prismatic in Hampshire - where two full-sized concept aircraft were built last year - working alongside BAE engineers in Lancashire, where the aircraft underwent further integration testing prior to flight trials.
Going the distance
As a High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) vehicle, PHASA-35 is powered by the Sun during the day and by batteries overnight. The long-life battery and highly efficient solar technology could allow the aircraft to maintain flight for up to a year operating in the stratosphere, the upper regions of the Earth’s atmosphere.
PHASA-35 is designed to provide a persistent, stable platform for monitoring, surveillance, communications and security applications. When connected to other technologies and assets, it will provide both military and commercial customers with capabilities that are not currently available from existing air and space platforms.
The Unmanned Air Vehicle also has the potential to be used in the delivery of communications networks including 5G, as well as provide other services, such as disaster relief and border protection, at a fraction of the cost of satellites.