In Brief

Kenya to test UK’s military surveillance equipment, Zephyr

Kenya is set to become the first country to test Zephyr, a Britain-made near-space glider, which is to be used for military surveillance if successful. “If the project is a success, the aircraft would be ready to fulfill missions providing telecommunications or military surveillance,” media reports indicate.

The testing of Zephyr in Kenya marks a significant achievement for Britain, as this solar-powered high-altitude platform station has been in development for the past 20 years. Kenya was chosen for the testing due to its “favorable weather conditions, geographical location, and history of serving as a testing ground for other high-altitude platform stations (HAPS).”

The solar-powered device will undergo testing in Kenya’s Rift Valley and is viewed as a cost-effective alternative to Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Starlink programs.

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

If the project succeeds, the aircraft will be ready for missions involving telecommunications or military surveillance. The pseudo-satellite, after passing stratospheric testing, will be mass-produced and sold for Kes647 million (US$5 million) each.

In the future, developers hope to expand Zephyr’s applications beyond military surveillance to include precision agriculture and forest fire management. However, there are no publicly available details on the economic benefits Kenya will receive from hosting the prototype testing.

The testing poses no danger to Rift Valley residents or wildlife due to the glider’s relatively small and lightweight design.

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