A new solar electric unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which has the potential to fly for up to a year before needing maintenance, has become a step closer to reality following a new agreement between two cutting-edge British companies.

Engineers from Prismatic and BAE Systems will collaborate on developing the new solar-powered High Altitude, Long Endurance (HALE) UAV known as PHASA-35(tm), with work already underway to prepare the first aircraft to be ready for flight tests in 2019.

The technology would offer a year-round, low-cost persistent service for a range of needs including surveillance and vital communications to remote areas, using only the sun to power the aircraft during the day and recharge the batteries for overnight operation.

Solar HALE vehicles offer a significantly cheaper alternative to conventional satellite technology.

"PHASA-35(tm) has the ability to revolutionise the way we think about Beyond Line of Sight communications," said Prismatic founder and managing director Paul Brooks.

“It's great to have the support of a world leading technology company like BAE Systems. I'd like to extend a huge thank you to the team who have worked tirelessly over the past two years to develop PHASA-35(tm) as a proven, cost effective and reliable system."

Michael Christie, strategy director within BAE Systems' air sector, added: "Prismatic is a fast-paced and forward-thinking company and PHASA-35(tm) is a great example of what the team can achieve in a short space of time.

“We were keen to invest in the programme as part of our long-term strategy to explore new technologies and solutions in air and space.

“I look forward to working with the team and I'm sure the collaboration will add further strength to both ourselves and Prismatic."

BAE Systems will invest in the development and flight testing of the PHASA-35(tm) system as part of its drive to continually develop new technologies to support aircraft of the future, working collaboratively with SMEs and academia.