March 28, 2008 Northrop Grumman Corporation's RQ-4 Global Hawk has successfully completed a flight lasting 33.1 hours at altitudes up to 60,000. While the milestone does not match the 54 hour flight achieved by QinetiQ’s Zephyr in 2007, it is a record for a full-scale, operational unmanned aircraft - and there was still fuel left in the tank.
The March 22 flight, which took place over Edwards Air Force Base, California, overtakes both the official and unofficial world un-refueled endurance records for operational unmanned airplanes.
"It was a picture perfect flight, landing flawlessly on centerline with enough fuel remaining to continue for two more hours," said Jerry Madigan, Northrop Grumman vice president of high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) systems. "The pilots and ground crew, as well as Edwards Air Force Base senior leadership were very impressed with the Global Hawk's performance, meeting or exceeding every flight objective."
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