Airbus and Williams to work on electric Zephyr aircraft


Airbus and Williams Advanced Engineering have agreed to focus on ultra-lightweight materials, battery technologies and cell chemistries. These are to be used in Airbus’ Zephyr programme.

Airbus and Williams Advanced Engineering have signed a memorandum of understanding to work on Airbus’ Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) scheme.

Zephyr is a record-breaking, solar-powered, unmanned aerial system (UAS), or drone, with unique communications and surveillance capabilities. It will fly at above commercial air traffic (at about 20,000 metres) for months at a time.

The new MoU will see Airbus and Williams Advanced Engineering develop ways in which ultra-lightweight materials, battery technologies and electrical cell chemistries can be integrated into the HAPS programme.

With Williams’ extensive experience in lightweight materials for both the Formula 1 Formula E as well as consumer EVs recently, Airbus hopes to tap into that knowledge.

Jana Rosenmann, Airbus’ Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems points out: “At Airbus we have enormous respect for Williams Advanced Engineering’s technical expertise and achievements, as well as for their impressive record in rapidly bringing new technologies and products to market. Our engineering teams are thrilled to have the opportunity to learn from the Formula 1 world and just as enthusiastic about sharing much of what we have learned in developing solutions to high-altitude, solar-powered flight.”

For Zephyr, the first production examples are being manufactured at Farnborough for the UK Ministry of Defense.

On a more civil note though, Airbus is also working on a hybrid passenger plane. Its partner from the automotive industry for this project is Rolls-Royce (we reported). The E-Fan-X is being made to carry a 100 passengers and testing may commence from 2020.

An Airbus report estimates about 13,000 aircrafts will be replaced with greener alternatives over the next 20 years. That is about one third of a total of 33,000 new planes projected to take off until 2035. They would double the existing flying fleet worldwide.,


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