Zephyr Shatters Robot Plane Endurance RecordSThe U.S. military wants to have robotic eyes in the sky constantly roving and watching what goes on below, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They might achieve that capability very soon, as a test vehicle called the Zephyr just obliterated the old endurance record for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), nearly tripling the previous record. How did the Zephyr stay aloft for so long?Back in April, we told you about the old record setter, a Global Hawk that flew for more than 30 hours. The Global Hawk still holds the "official" record because QinetiQ, the company that produced the Zephyr, didn't invite the Federation Aeronautique Internationale to the test. Apparently, they're more interested in Department of Defense contracts than earning the FAI seal of approval. Official or not, the Zephyr's achievement is astonishing. It stayed in the air, operated by autopilot or remotely via satellite, for 82 hours and 37 minutes. It managed such a feat of endurance by combining an ultralight carbon-fiber airframe with highly efficient solar panels and batteries. The solar arrays cover virtually every wing surface, yet are no thicker than paper. During the day, they provide enough power for the Zephyr to fly, plus enough extra to charge the batteries. The lithium-sulfur batteries hold enough juice to keep the Zephyr flying through the night. Ultimately, aircraft based on the Zephyr will be fitted with surveillance equipment and flown at high altitudes to keep a perpetual, unblinking watch over whatever the DoD deems worthy of the attention. Image by: QinetiQ. QinetiQ's Zephyr UAV flies for three and a half days to set unofficial world record for longest duration unmanned flight. [QineticQ]