Aircraft manufacturer Airbus and Williams Advanced Engineering have signed a memorandum of understanding to integrate ultra-lightweight materials, battery technologies and electrical cell chemistries into Airbus’s Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) program.
Zephyr is a solar-powered unmanned aerial system, or drone, that will fly at more than 65,000 feet – above commercial air traffic – for months at a time. The first production examples are currently being manufactured for the UK Ministry of Defense.
Williams is the sole battery supplier to the FIA Formula E championship, so its battery technology has been proven in the most demanding conditions. Williams also boasts four decades of experience developing lightweight materials and structures. Its recent developments include a new way to use recycled carbon fiber to manufacture components that are up to 40% lighter than current alternatives.
“At Airbus we have enormous respect for Williams’s technical expertise and achievements, as well as for their impressive record in rapidly bringing new technologies and products to market,” said Jana Rosenmann, Airbus’s Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems. “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.”