A solar-powered, high-altitude, unmanned aerial vehicle built by British company QinetiQ and has set a new unmanned record by staying airborne for 82 hours and 37 minutes.

The demonstration, which was funded by the US Department of Defence, is part of an agreement with the United Kingdom to develop the vehicle, called Zephyr, under their joint capability technology demonstration programme.

Zephyr is an ultra-lightweight, carbon-fibre aircraft, powered by amorphous silicon solar arrays. The arrays cover its wings and provide power during the day.

Rechargeable lithium-sulphur batteries store the energy and power the aircraft at night.

The trial allowed the military to test the aircraft’s capabilities for battlefield surveillance and communications.

By Daniel Garrun.