Ordnance Survey and a team of aeronautic engineers are developing an innovative solar powered, High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) to change how the planet is mapped.
Named Astigan, the enterprise is aiming to give quicker and better images of the Earth through a platform which will fly at 67,000ft, nearly twice the cruising height of a commercial airliner.
The unmanned aircraft weighs 149kg and has a wingspan of 38m.
The team behind the project says it can be positioned to view any part of the Earth and collect data over wider areas in comparison to conventional aerial imagery capture.
Designers have implemented existing satellite services and have ensured it will fly for 90 days at a time without the need for landing, the equivalent of circling the Earth four-and-a-half times.
Brian Jones, Astigan managing director, said: “This remarkable aircraft has met every goal and passed all milestones in its ambitious development programme so far. We are excited about the year ahead as we increase our flights and move towards a fully operational high-altitude test. By the end of 2019 we aim to be completing endurance flight testing, building up to 90 days non-stop, which is the operational capability we’re striving for.”
He added: “It’s incredibly exciting that the UK has developed this kind of technology, delivering satellite capabilities, unparalleled flexibility and improved efficiency, all at a vastly reduced cost. We look forward to completing this project and seeing the aircraft deliver on its outstanding potential, which should provide a range of scientific and environmental benefits.”
Since 2014, Astigan, with collaboration among British SMEs, industry experts and universities, has already safely completed eight full scale flights.