Airbus-Amprius partnership to boost Zephyr project

Airbus Defence and Space has invested in US-based battery technology company Amprius, to boost the development of new generation batteries based on silicon nanowire anode technology.

Zephyr’s launch requirements are simple compared to traditional aviation No runway, no airport (Image: Airbus)

The investment will help drive the development of higher volume production capacity, and cells with higher energy density for programmes such as the Zephyr high altitude pseudo satellite and Urban Air Mobility innovation initiatives.

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Amprius was the first company to introduce 100 per cent silicon anodes in lithium ion batteries to the market in 2013. It manufactures the highest energy density commercial batteries in the industry. The company’s products and technology include a 100 per cent silicon nanowire anode, silicon-graphite composite anodes, lithium-rich cathodes, and high voltage electrolytes tailored for silicon. Its batteries are used for smartphones, wearables, drones, robotics, aerospace vehicles, electrical transportation, and military equipment.

One Airbus application will be with Zephyr, the solar–electric, stratospheric unmanned aerial vehicle that combines some of the attributes of an aircraft and some of those of a satellite, with the ability to stay focused on a specific area of interest while providing satellite-like communications and 'persistent surveillance'. This would give the ability to monitor the spread of wildfires or oil spills, for example. It operates at an average altitude of 21km, has a wingspan of 25m and weighs less than 75kg. On its maiden flight, the first production model of the aircraft flew for over 25 days.

“This partnership reinforces the link between two market leaders, the newest generation batteries on the market matched with the most advanced HAPS programme,” said Jana Rosenmann, head of Airbus Unmanned Aerial Systems.

Amprius chief operating officer Jon Bornstein said: “The incorporation of Amprius’ batteries into the Zephyr platform represents an important validation of this technology.”