Airbus has decided to base its solar-powered Zephyr aircraft in Australia

The Zephyr in flight. Image: Airbus

European aeronautical group Airbus is going to base its solar-powered Zephyr unmanned aircraft at Wyndham airfield in Western Australia.

Wyndham will become the world’s first operational site for the launch and recovery of the unmanned aircraft known as High Altitude Pseudo Satellites.

Airbus will begin flights of the Zephyr at Wyndham in the second half of this year. The aircraft is extremely lightweight and makes almost zero noise as it leaves and returns to its base. About 20 Airbus employees will be based in the local area.

A Zephyr typically flies for days or weeks at a time without landing and operates at very high altitudes, far above commercial airliners.

Tony Fraser, Managing Director of Airbus Australia Pacific, says Airbus is grateful to Western Australia and the Shire of Wyndham and East Kimberly for their support.

“The combination of that support, largely unrestricted airspace and reliable weather make Wyndham an ideal location for these operations,” he says.

The Zephyr S which will fly at Wyndham is the production version of the earlier Zephyr 7 aircraft which holds the world record for 14 days of continuous flight set in 2010.

It weighs less than 75kg and flies by charging its batteries from sunlight during the day and maintaining its high altitude at night, all under control from the ground.

Launching a Zephyr. Image: Airbus

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