The MQ-25 test vehicle, T1, has completed engine runs and deck handling demonstrations to prove the aircraft’s ability to move within a carrier deck’s tight confines. (Photo credit: Eric Shindelbower, Boeing)

The U.S. Navy has awarded Boeing $805 million to build MQ-25 carrier-based unmanned aerial refuelers to extend the range of deployed fighters.

Under the engineering and manufacturing development contract, Boeing will provide four aircraft, with plans to perform the work at its Defense, Space & Security facility in St. Louis, Missouri.

According to the U.S. Navy, the MQ-25 Stingray will provide better use of combat strike fighters by extending the range of deployed Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing EA-18G Growler, and Lockheed Martin F-35C aircraft. MQ-25 will also integrate with carrier catapult and launch and recovery systems.

High-altitude UAS market to reach $12.4B in 10 years

According to a market intelligence report by Fremont, California-based BIS Research, the global high-altitude aeronautics platform station (HAAPS) market is anticipated to reach $12.4 billion by 2028, up from $3.8 billion in 2017.

HAAPS technology – unmanned aerial vehicles, airships, balloons, tethered aerostats, and tethered drones – offers a competitive advantage compared to conventional satellites and terrestrial-based systems. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Raven Aerostar, Thales Alenia Space, Bye Aerospace, and Airbus are some of the HAAPS manufacturers covered in the report.

According to BIS Research analyst Sudheer Uniyal, the commercial HAAPS segment is expected to have the highest growth in the forecast period (2018 to 2028). “The growing need for high-capacity wireless communication services is likely to push the development of HAAPS to provide wireless connectivity.”

Zephyr launch from Arizona. (Photo credit: Airbus)

Solar-powered Airbus Zephyr UAS sets endurance record

The Airbus Zephyr S solar-powered, high-altitude pseudo-satellite (HAPS) unmanned aerial system (UAS) logged a maiden flight of nearly 26 days, the longest duration yet achieved. Supported by first customer, the U.K. Ministry of Defence, an application is pending to establish the flight as a new world record.

The previous longest duration record of more than 14 days continuous flight was logged by a Zephyr prototype aircraft in 2010.

Operating exclusively on solar power, above the weather and conventional air traffic, Zephyr can focus on an area of interest hundreds of miles wide while providing satellite-like communications and Earth-observation services.

With a 25m wingspan and weighing less than 75kg, Zephyr can fly at an average altitude of 70,000ft (21km).

Additional flights are planned for 2018 from a new operating site at the Wyndham airfield in Western Australia, according to Jana Rosenmann, head of Airbus unmanned aerial systems.