Airbus Zephyr drone crashes in Arizona just shy of breaking longest flight record

After 64 days in the air, an Zephyr drone crashed this month. The solar-powered, fixed-wing drone, part of a test, crashed in after almost breaking the world record for the longest flight. It is the longest drone flight ever recorded and almost the longest flight ever.

According to Airbus, the drone, which has a wingspan of 75 feet, “experienced an issue which ended the flight campaign,” causing it to crash from the stratosphere.

On August 19, more than two months after it was first launched, the Zephyr S drone crashed somewhere in the state of Arizona, as was reported by the aviation website Simple Flying.

The drone, which is currently being tested by the Army as part of an experiment involving a persistent airborne sensor, can cruise at altitudes greater than 60,000 feet.

The solar panels on the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) absorb the energy needed to keep it during the night.

Zephyr drone experienced an issue

“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. “The teams are currently analyzing the 1,500 hours of stratospheric flight that this mission provided.”

According to Simple Flying, public flight data reveals that the drone had a fast descent, descending at a pace that was more than 4,500 feet per minute.

The crash happened after the drone had flown above not only Arizona, where the Yuma Proving Grounds are located, but also across Central America, according to Task and Purpose.

The long-term drone flight demonstrated that the fixed-wing drone could be used for surveillance and jamming an adversary's radar systems.

The unarmed Zephyr drone can monitor a region that is 12.4 miles by 18.6 miles in high resolution while traveling through the stratosphere. This capability can be used for both military and civilian objectives.

The European aerospace corporation known as Airbus is responsible for the production of the drone.

According to Airbus, the Zephyr drone, which has a maximum takeoff weight of 165 pounds and weighs less than that, may also be used to deliver high-speed data to areas of the globe that do not have access to broadband internet.

Airbus Zephyr Drone Crashes In Arizona Just Shy Of Breaking Longest Flight Record

The record for the longest unmanned flight in history was broken by the drone in July. The previous record was achieved in 2018 by the same kind of drone, which had flown continuously for slightly under 26 days without needing to refuel.

The record for the longest flight in history was achieved in 1958 by two men in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. They flew for 64 days and 22 hours, which is still the longest trip in history.

Photos courtesy of Airbus.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ or @hayekesteloo.

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