Airbus has flown a solar-powered plane on two 18-day flights, and says the Zephyr could soon spend six months in the air at a time.
The thin plane, which resembles a glider even though it has two small propellers, has undergone two test flights in civilian airspace.
Operating in the stratosphere, higher than aircraft but lower than satellites, the company hopes to help bring the Internet to billions of people around the world.
“We have ambitions to go for periods of up to six months,” Jana Rosenman, head of unmanned aircraft systems at Airbus, told the Palestinian News Agency.
“Our batteries are working very well. I think we are now confident in (reaching) three months and I would say going six months on this aerial vehicle would not be a problem.
“Have we demonstrated it in practice? No, not yet. But all the steps we’ve taken in our lab tests clearly indicate that we’re on a very good path.”
She added, “I think there’s a huge potential to reach people that you wouldn’t traditionally reach with fiber (broadband), there’s really no end to it.
“There is virtually no limit to access to today’s offline population, which is a vast community,” Rosenman added.
The Palestinian Authority reported that UNICEF data for 2020 said that two-thirds of children around the world – nearly 1.3 billion people – are not connected to the Internet at home, which prevents and isolates them from competition in the modern economy.
Zephyr could also have military uses.
Its second 18-day flight has been completed for the UK Ministry of Defense, to which Airbus had previously agreed to supply similar aircraft.
The Department of Defense, which describes the aircraft as high-altitude pseudo-satellites (HAPS), said in 2016 that it would be “capable of collecting consistent, reliable information across vast geographic areas at a much greater level of detail than ever before.”
“Spécialiste de la télévision sans vergogne. Pionnier des zombies inconditionnels. Résolveur de problèmes d’une humilité exaspérante.”