The prototype AeroVironment Helios Solar-Electric high altitude flying wing is trailed by its control van over Rogers Dry Lake near Dryden facility - September 1999 Image courtsey - NASA
July 4, 2005 AeroVironment (AV) has successfully completed the world’s first liquid hydrogen powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flight tests. In doing so, the fifty-foot wingspan prototype Global Observer aircraft accomplished a major milestone in AV’s unmanned High-Altitude Long-Endurance (HALE) development and continued the life work of one of the greatest inventors the world has ever known – Paul MacCready. MacCready founded AeroVironment after achieving the world’s first human powered flight and the world’s first solar powered flight more than a quarter of a century ago. The prototype flight was the last major milestone in the company’s HALE UAV technology development and demonstrates the practicality and operational robustness of the Global Observer system. AV’s Global Observer HALE platform will be able to operate at 65,000 feet altitude for a week at a time with a payload of up to 1,000 pounds. Using only two aircraft in rotation, this will provide seamless communication relay and remote sensing systems at breakthrough affordability. Some of the applications for the new system include persistent, global, near-space loitering capability for defence, low-cost, rapidly-deployable telecommunications infrastructure, hurricane/storm tracking, weather monitoring, environmental monitoring, agriculture optimisation and aerial imaging/mapping capabilities.
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