AeroVironment Inc. (Monrovia, Calif., USA) announced on April 1 that the composites-intensive Global Observer unmanned air vehicle undergoing flight test envelope expansion at Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB) in California experienced a mishap at 2:30 am Pacific Daylight Time and crashed, approximately 18 hours into its ninth test flight. There were no reports of injury or damage to other property.
"Flight testing an innovative new solution like Global Observer involves pushing the frontiers of technology and convention," said Tim Conver, AeroVironment chairman and chief executive officer. "Risk is a component of every flight test program, and the learning that results from a mishap enables us to improve system reliability and performance. One benefit of testing an unmanned aircraft system is that pilots and crew are not in harmís way when a mishap occurs."
Conver added, "We will work closely with the Investigation Board to determine the cause of the mishap and once its findings are available we will apply its recommendations to future activities. Global Observer remains a compelling solution to important government and commercial needs."
The joint U.S. government and AeroVironment Global Observer team was in the process of expanding the flight envelope of the first air vehicle, which had been operating for nearly twice the endurance and at a higher altitude than previous flights. The second air vehicle developed as part of the joint capability technology demonstration (JCTD) program is nearly complete and remains at AeroVironment's development facility.
AV received the contract for developing and demonstrating Global Observer as a JCTD program in September 2007. Six U.S. government agencies have provided more than $140 million in funding for the program, most of which has been expended.