Airbus and Formula 1 team Williams will collaborate to build a super lightweight drone that can fly at extremely high altitudes.

The two companies will examine ways to combine Williams' lightweight composites and battery expertise with Airbus' Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (Haps) programme.

Zephyr would be a record-breaking, solar-powered, unmanned drone with unique communications and surveillance capabilities.

It would fly at more than 65,000ft (20,000m), above commercial air traffic - which typically flies at about 39,000ft - for months at a time. The first production examples are being built at Farnborough for the British Ministry of Defence.

As sole battery supplier to the FIA Formula E championship since its inception, Williams Advanced Engineering's battery technology had been tried and tested, and its expertise in electrification has become core to the business.


Lightweight materials and structures are crucial in motor racing and Williams was now developing these technologies and finding weight-saving solutions.

Airbus head of unmanned aerial systems, Jana Rosenmann said Airbus had ''enormous respect'' for Williams' technical expertise and achievements, as well as for their impressive record in rapidly bringing new technologies and products to market.

''Our engineering teams are thrilled to have the opportunity to learn from the Formula 1 world and just as enthusiastic about sharing much of what we have learned in developing solutions to high-altitude, solar-powered flight.''

Both companies wanted to recruit talented engineers.

''We hope that this joint activity illustrates the terrific opportunities we offer to work in the kind of technologies that will be critical to future transportation."