Within a 24-hour span, PHASA-35 accomplished an impressive feat, ascending to over 66,000 feet and piercing through the stratosphere before executing a successful landing. The trial, which took place last month in New Mexico, provided engineers with an invaluable opportunity to evaluate the performance of this experimental solar-electric drone in the outermost regions of the Earth’s atmosphere.
The flight represents a momentous milestone in the development of PHASA-35, a project initiated in 2018. Engineered by BAE Systems’ subsidiary Prismatic Ltd, this cutting-edge drone is purpose-built to operate above adverse weather conditions and conventional air traffic. It showcases the potential to be a steadfast and reliable platform for various applications, including ultra-long endurance intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and security operations.
PHASA-35 possesses the capacity to facilitate the delivery of communication networks, including 4G and 5G, making it a versatile solution for various applications. Beyond intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance tasks, this innovative drone could be effectively deployed in disaster relief operations and border protection, offering an alternative to conventional airborne and satellite systems. Its adaptability opens up many possibilities, enabling advanced technology deployment in critical scenarios.
The PHASA-35 program is housed within FalconWorks™, a newly established center for advanced and agile research and development within BAE Systems’ Air sector. FalconWorks™ is specifically designed to deliver cutting-edge combat air capabilities to the UK and its allied partners.
PHASA-35, with its 35-meter wingspan and capable of carrying a 15kg payload, incorporates a suite of world-leading technologies. Among them are advanced composites, energy management systems, solar electric cells, and photo-voltaic arrays, enabling it to harness solar energy during the day. This energy is then stored in rechargeable cells, allowing the drone to sustain flight throughout the night.
The successful trial comprehensively evaluated the performance of the experimental system across various critical aspects. This trial marks the initial step in a series of planned assessments to confirm system effectiveness, support development endeavors, and validate key test points. The ultimate objective is to make PHASA-35 readily accessible in both defense and commercial markets internationally.
Dave Corfield, CEO of Prismatic Ltd., commented, “This is a fantastic achievement for everyone involved and shows the commitment of BAE Systems to invest in new technologies and markets. PHASA-35’s first stratospheric flight demonstrates that this vehicle is on track to become the go-to system for long endurance, high altitude, and communications applications in the future. The successful trials are a testament to the hard work of the fantastic team that we have built over the last couple of years within Prismatic and across our partner companies, including Piran, Amprius, Microlink, Honeywell, PMW Dynamics, and the Met Office. I look forward to the next steps as we develop this unique system.”
Cliff Robson, Group Managing Director for BAE Systems’ Air Sector said of the successful test flight, “PHASA-35 is breaking new ground – opening up the stratosphere to new possibilities. The team, which brings together BAE Systems’ know-how from across the globe with innovative solar and power management technologies, demonstrated tremendous commitment and ambition as they tackled the challenges associated with novel technologies and approaches. This partnership approach is key to our ability to enhance our defence expertise with new thinking and technologies.”
The most recent trials were conducted from Spaceport America in New Mexico, with flight operations taking place in the White Sands Missile Range. These trials were made possible through sponsorship by the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center. The test flight at the White Sands Missile Range was efficiently coordinated and directly supported by personnel affiliated with the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division, Detachment White Sands.
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Post Image- PHASA-35 in flight (Image Credit: BAE Systems)