Aircraft manufacturer Airbus to work with EV and automotive engineer Williams on composites and battery technology for solar-powered Zephyr drone
Airbus and Williams Advanced Engineering are to co-operate on new technology for Airbus’ Zephyr drone programme.
Williams, perhaps best known for its expertise and contribution to Formula One and other racing teams, is also pushing pioneering development in vehicle electrification. In addition to developing technology for Aston Martin’s EV programme, the engineering firm has also developed its own scalable EV architecture.
Under a new memorandum of understanding (MoU), the two groups are to examine applications that may combine Williams’ “innovation culture”, as well as lightweight composites and battery expertise with Airbus‘ Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) programme.
Zephyr is Airbus’ solar-powered, unmanned aerial system (UAS), or drone, often used in military applications. It will fly at more than 65,000ft, above commercial air traffic, for months at a time. The first production examples are being manufactured at Farnborough for the UK Ministry of Defence, following an order from the RAF in May 2016.
Two variants are currently available: the Zephyr S, which can carry payloads offering voice and data communications in line of sight and beyond the line of sight, and high resolution optical imagery; and the Zephyr T which can carry larger payloads including active RADAR, mapping equipment and internet communications.
Airbus Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems, Jana Rosenmann, said: “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.
Williams Advanced Engineering managing director Craig Wilson added: “Airbus is a name synonymous with innovation and technology in the industry. As such, we are delighted to be working with them on this project, and hope to share some of our expertise in electrification, battery systems and advanced lightweight materials, as well as learn from their vast experience in aerospace. We are very much looking forward to working together on this project and hope the learnings from one another may continue in the future.”