Recently, social media giant Facebook pulled out of a number of drone projects. These are not simple, recreational drones, mind you. These plans involve massive drones – the size of an actual airplane – and would go around the world. But that is a thing of the past. Facebook pulled out of not one – but two ambitious projects involving drones.
But the next evolutionary step for drones does not end with Facebook. Among the reasons the company stopped their pursuit is that many more companies are there aiming the same goals.
The Zephyr S Project:
The aeronautics company Airbus recently unveiled their newest drone. Their crown jewel, named the Zephyr S, is a high-altitude autonomous drone. Like Facebook’s failed Aquila project, the Zephyr has wings built with solar panels. This enables the drone to create its own power source, needing only to land for maintenance. The Zephyr expects only to land at least every 100 days, leaving a lot of time for flight.
The Zephyr can fly at an average of 21 kilometers in the air. This space is beyond the reach of commercial flight planes as well as clouds itself – meaning it has uninterrupted pathing. Its solar panel covered wings reach up to 25 meters, while its weight is at 75 kilograms if unburdened with a payload. Its carrying capacity is five times that of its own weight, meaning at 375 kilograms.
Aside from carrying packages from one point to another, it also has other uses. Its main use as for now is military in nature. Because of its autonomy and self-sustenance, it can be used for surveillance between military bases. The high altitude can also provide a wide range of view for reconnaissance missions. This view is a lot better than satellite imaging. For satellite imaging, you have images from farther up. It may not be as thorough as you may like. Satellites also take up to a few days to update their images. This means that what you are seeing may have changed already over the past 24 hours. For the Zephyr, you get a real-time image that shoots up the accuracy considerably.