April 11, 2019 / 7:50 AM / 7 days ago

Airbus says Zephyr test flight for UK Ministry of Defence was 'interrupted'

SYDNEY/MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Airbus SE said on Thursday that a test flight of its Zephyr surveillance and communications drone in Australia for the British Ministry of Defence was “interrupted” due to adverse weather conditions last month.

The solar-electric-powered drone was believed to have crashed during a test flight following a mishap after the take-off, The Australian newspaper reported on Thursday, citing unnamed sources.

The flight on March 15 was “interrupted earlier than planned due to adverse weather conditions”, an Airbus spokeswoman said.

“We are working hard on preparing for the next trial,” she said, declining to provide further details.

Zephyr is designed to linger at an altitude of about 70,000 feet (21 kilometres) for months at a time for surveillance or to provide a temporary boost to communications.

Airbus had said in February it built its first Zephyr global operations site in a remote part of Australia’s northwest because it had ideal launch weather.

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau declined to comment.

Reporting by Byron Kaye and Sonali Paul; additional reporting and writing by Jamie Freed; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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