The unusual Persistent High Altitude Solar Aircraft (PHASA-35) aircraft, designed and created by BAE Systems' Prismatic entity, has just finished the final stage of testing.
The project, supported by Britain's Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and Australian Defense Science and Technology Group (DSTG), was designed to bridge the gap between aircraft and satellites. Work on the final design lasted 20 months, but by the end of 2019, the company already had two working prototypes on hand - and now one of them soared over the Australian Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Woomer Test Range to complete the first full-fledged test flight.
Everything went according to plan, so soon we can expect a wider application of this idea. Especially that, according to its creators, it is cheaper to build and operate than satellites, and at the same time is a durable and stable air platform for civil and military applications, including spyware, communication, security, remote presence detection, forest fire detection, observation of marine life or research environmental.
The construction with a wingspan of 35 meters, with a self-supporting body made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic, weighs 150 kilograms and can spend up to a year in the air, thanks to solar panels and a lithium-ion battery that powers it during the day and at night, respectively. Thanks to propellers intended for high-altitude flights, it is able to operate in the stratosphere and resist even strong wind gusts. To ensure that everything works properly regardless of the circumstances and conditions, there will be several more test flights this year, but it is estimated that ships will be operational within the next 12 months.
According to the authors of the project: - When we combine our solution with other technologies and capabilities, it will provide both military and commercial clients with opportunities that are not available to them on current air and space platforms. Unmanned Air Vehicle also has the potential to be used in the supply of wireless networks, including 5G, as well as other services, e.g. border protection or disaster assistance, for a fraction of the price of satellites (...) These delightful early results show how much you can achieve in such a short time. From design to flight, they show in less than two years that we can meet the British government's challenge for industry to deliver the Future Combat Air System over the next decade.
We'll see all together what's next.