The Airbus Zephyr’s ‘unexpected termination’ comes after 64 days in the air. The Zeyphr surpassed all known uncrewed aircraft endurance records.

DURING THE TRIAL, the drone climbed to more than 60,000 feet before it flew a course over the southern U.S., the Gulf of Mexico, and South America before returning to Yuma airspace.

The US Army Future Command’s Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space (APNT/Space) cross-functional team launched the Zephyr 8 UAV on June 15 at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona to test the UAV’s energy storage capacity, battery longevity, station-keeping abilities, and solar panel efficiency as a means to boost intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.

“The events that led to Zephyr’s unexpected termination are currently under investigation. Further information will be released once the investigation is complete,” Army Futures Command spokesperson Madeline Winkler said.

Flight data indicated the Zephyr experienced a rapid descent at 4,544 feet per minute, Flight Global reported.

‘During the 64-day flight the drone reached more than 60,000 feet.’

While officials did not provide further detail about the event, they said not all was lost. The Zephyr 8 flew more than 30,000 nm during the test and doubled a previous UAS endurance record of about 26 days. It amassed 1,500 flight hours, which also beat all known unmanned aircraft endurance records, the Army said.

“Despite this event, the Army and its partners have gleaned invaluable data and increased knowledge on the endurance, efficiency, and station keeping abilities of high-altitude UAS platforms,” Michael Monteleone, director of the APNT/Space CFT, said in a statement. “That knowledge will allow us to continue to advance requirements for reliable, modernized stratospheric capabilities to our soldiers.”