Global Observer UAS flight is powered by hydrogen

AeroVironment's Global Observer unmanned aircraft system makes history with four-hour, 5,000-ft, hydrogen-powered flight as part of high-altitude, long-endurance flight testing.

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AeroVironment Inc. (AV, Monrovia, Calif., USA) announced on Jan. 11 that the Global Observer unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has successfully completed its historic first flight powered by the aircraft’s hydrogen-fueled propulsion system at Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB) in California. This milestone marks the beginning of high-altitude, long-endurance flight testing for the demonstration and operational utility phase of the Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) program.

The hydrogen-powered flight lasted for four hours and reached an altitude of 5,000 ft/1,524m above sea level over the United States Air Force Flight Test Center at EAFB. This first flight follows the successful battery-powered flight test phase of the demonstration program that took place during the months of August and September.

The flight test team will now systematically expand the altitude and duration of test flights to validate the aircraft’s high-altitude, long-endurance performance. These flights will include the Air Force's Joint Aerial Layer Network (JALN) Tactical Communications Suite (TCS) payload. The JALN TCS provides persistent, IP-based aerial communications infrastructure that extends communications from a Global Observer aircraft positioned at 65,000 ft/19,812m above sea level over a wide area. The joint operational utility of the Global Observer system will also be assessed during this flight test series for future U.S. Government, civil, and military uses. 

“Global Observer has moved quickly from development and testing toward demonstrating mission-ready, affordable persistence,” said Tim Conver, AV chairman and chief executive officer. “Similar to a satellite, Global Observer is the first system designed to provide a 24/7/365 unblinking eye and continuous communications link over any location on the earth’s surface for as long as needed. The joint AV and U.S. government team developed Global Observer to meet today’s urgent requirements for persistence and to enable the development of much more cost-effective solutions for the future. The speed with which we have achieved this milestone reflects the benefits of an effective government-industry partnership.”