Kenya Chosen as First Country to Test Britain's Military Surveillance Glider Zephyr

Pseudo-satellite solar-powered Zephyr
Pseudo-satellite solar-powered Zephyr

Kenya will be the first country to test a Britain-made near-space glider Zephyr which, if successful, will be used for military surveillance. 

The solar-powered equipment will be tested in Rift Valley Kenya and is seen as a cheap alternative to SpaceX and Starlink programmes developed by billionaire Elon Musk. 

“If the project is a success, the aircraft would be ready to fulfill missions providing telecommunications or military surveillance,” reports indicated. 

The pseudo-satellite, once it passes the stratospheric testing, will be mass-produced and sold at Ksh647 million (USD5 million) a piece. 

A generated image of Zephyr in stratospheric flight
A generated image of Zephyr in stratospheric flight
Aalto HAPS/Airbus

Zephyr testing in Kenya is a big win for Britain as the solar-powered high-altitude platform station has been in development for the last 20 years. 

Its testing is not expected to pose any danger to Rift Valley residents and wildlife as it is relatively small and light. 

“Its wingspan is the breadth of an A380 Superjumbo but the craft weighs less than an average British adult, depending on its payload,” the report added. 

Kenya was selected for the testing because of the favourable weather conditions for the solar-powered equipment. 

Additionally, Kenya was preferred due to its geographical location and also had provided a testing ground for other types of high-altitude platform stations (HAPS) before.

Notably, it has been developed in Farnborough, Hampshire in the United Kingdom and funded by Airbus. 

“The idea is old but the technology capabilities have evolved such that this idea now is doable,” engineers behind the pseudo-satellite were earlier quoted as saying. 

In the future, developers aim to perfect Zephyr to go beyond military surveillance to offer solutions in precision agriculture as well as forest fire management.

On the economic benefits that Kenya would realise from the project, AALTO Company Spokesperson told, “AALTO is ready to make a long-term investment in Kenya over the next three to five years. As part of this, we have already established a country manager in Nairobi and are increasingly present in-country, with warm support from national stakeholders and partners.”

President William Ruto (left0 during a meeting with British PM Rishi Sunak on November 7, 2022.
President William Ruto (left) during a meeting with British PM Rishi Sunak on November 7, 2022.
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