Image: Airbus Newsroom

Airbus and Williams Advanced Engineering have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, under which they will explore areas where they can combine their technological expertise. The collaboration will focus on Airbus’ Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) programme.

Zephyr is a solar-powered drone, or unmanned aerial system (UAS), designed to fly for months at a time. It will fly above commercial traffic at over 65,000ft, equipped with surveillance and communications technology.

Airbus is seeking world-leading expertise in battery technology from Williams’ engineering and technology business, Williams Advanced Engineering. This, combined with Williams’ experience using lightweight materials in motor racing, will be a highly valuable asset for Airbus. Williams has recently succeeded in making components from recycled carbon fibre that can be around 40% lighter than previous versions.

Production for the first of the Zephyr drones will reportedly take place at Farnborough for the Ministry of Defence.

Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus, expressed excitement at the news: “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.”

Managing Director of Williams Advanced Engineering, Craig Wilson, shared this sentiment, saying that “we are delighted to be working with [Airbus] 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.”

Rosenmann added that “Both Airbus and Williams are always looking to recruit talented engineers and we hope that this joint activity illustrates the terrific opportunities that will be critical to the future of transportation.”

 

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