BAE Systems, a global leader in defense, aerospace, and security, has successfully completed the first stratospheric flight of its High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) Uncrewed Aerial System (UAS) called PHASA-35. The trial took place in New Mexico, USA and saw the drone ascend over 66,000 feet into the stratosphere over a 24-hour period before making a successful landing. This milestone allows engineers to evaluate the capabilities of the experimental solar-electric drone in the outermost layers of the Earth’s atmosphere.
PHASA-35, developed by Prismatic Ltd, a subsidiary of BAE Systems, is designed to operate above weather systems and conventional air traffic. Its advanced design and high-altitude capabilities make it suitable for various applications. It offers possibilities for ultra-long endurance intelligence and surveillance, security, communications network delivery (including 4G and 5G), disaster relief, border protection, and more.
The PHASA-35 program is part of FalconWorks, a research and development center within BAE Systems’ Air sector. FalconWorks aims to deliver state-of-the-art combat air capabilities to the UK and its allies. The drone itself has a 35-meter wingspan and can carry a 15kg payload. It incorporates advanced composites, energy management systems, solar electric cells, and photo-voltaic arrays that provide energy during the day and store it in rechargeable cells for overnight flight.
The recent successful trial was the first in a series of planned trials to confirm system performance, support development activities, and validate test points. The goal is to make PHASA-35 available in defense and commercial markets worldwide. Dave Corfield, CEO of Prismatic Ltd, praised the achievement and highlighted the commitment of BAE Systems to invest in new technologies and markets. Cliff Robson, Group Managing Director for BAE Systems’ Air Sector, emphasized the collaborative approach and the importance of innovative solar and power management technologies.
The trials were conducted from Spaceport America in New Mexico and sponsored by the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division, Detachment White Sands, provided coordination and direct support for the test flight.
Overall, the successful stratospheric flight of PHASA-35 represents a significant step forward in the development of this advanced drone and opens up new possibilities for high-altitude applications in defense and commercial sectors.