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Solar-powered drone crashes in US after 64-day flight

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A solar-powered drone has crashed after a 64-day flight, more than double the record for a pilotless aircraft, the US Army said on Tuesday.

The Zephyr-8 drone, made by the European group Airbus, “encountered events leading to its unexpected termination” over the Yuma desert test facility in Arizona on August 18, the Army said in a statement.

The note does not provide details, but the Simple Flying website, which tracks flights, said that the plane was flying in a serpentine way at heights between 45,000 and 50,000 feet and suddenly descended rapidly.

The Zephyr, a solar-powered aircraft with a wingspan of 25 meters and a weight of 75 kilos, more than doubled the records for unmanned flights.

His journey was close to the longest flight of all time. In 1959, two pilots flew a Cessna 172 for 64 days, 22 hours, and 19 minutes over a desert in the southwestern United States, refueling every 12 hours while flying on top of a moving pickup truck that supplied fuel.

The Zephyr flew most of the time in the stratosphere to test its ability to collect and transmit data and be directed by satellite connections, the Army and Airbus said.

The device has the potential to serve as a high-altitude platform station (HAPS) by being able to remain at high altitudes for long periods and thus provide broadband communications services to remote regions.

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