A drone that flew for over two months in a US Army test crashed in Arizona after nearly breaking a record for the longest flight

The Zephyr drone flew for 64 days before it "experienced an issue which ended the flight campaign," Airbus said in a statement to Insider.

A drone that flew for over two months in a US Army test crashed in Arizona after nearly breaking a record for the longest flight
Zephyr drone on runway with mountains in background
The Airbus Zephyr drone remained in the sky for 64 days before it "experienced an issue which ended the flight campaign."
  • An Airbus Zephyr drone being tested by the US Army crashed this month after 64 days in the air.
  • It is the longest flight recorded by a drone and nearly the longest flight ever.
  • Airbus told Insider the drone "experienced an issue which ended the flight campaign."

A solar-powered drone with an 75-foot wingspan came crashing down from the stratosphere after nearly breaking the record for the longest flight in history.

As reported by the aviation news site Simple Flying, the Zephyr S drone crashed somewhere in Arizona on Aug. 19, more than two months after it was launched. The drone, which is being tested by the US Army as part of a persistent airborne sensor experiment, can cruise at altitudes exceeding 60,000 feet, where its solar panels absorb the energy used to keep the unmanned aerial vehicle airborne at night.

"After 64 days of stratospheric flight and completing numerous mission objectives, Zephyr experienced an issue which ended the flight campaign," a spokesperson for Airbus said in a statement to Insider. "The teams are currently analyzing the 1,500 hours of stratospheric flight that this mission provided."

The company did not specify what happened to the drone, but according to Simple Flying, public flight data shows it underwent a rapid descent — falling at a speed of more than 4,500 feet per minute.

The crash came after the drone had flown above not just Arizona, where the Army's Yuma Proving Grounds are, but across Central America, Task and Purpose reported, showing that it could be used for surveillance as well as jamming an adversary's radar systems.

According to Airbus, the European aerospace company that manufactures the unarmed drone, the Zephyr has both potential military and civilian applications, as it allows users to enjoy high-resolution monitoring of a 12.4 by 18.6 mile area while navigating the stratosphere.

The company says the drone, which weighs under 165 pounds, could also be used to provide high-speed data to parts of the world that do not have access to broadband internet.

In July, the drone broke the record for the longest unmanned flight in history. That previous record was set by the same model in 2018, the drone having remained in the sky for just under 26 days without refueling. The longest flight in history, which remains unbroken, was set in 1958 by two men in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk who flew for 64 days and 22 hours.

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