AeroVironment has passed a critical milestone in the development of its Global Observer
unmanned aircraft system (UAS
). The company reports that the High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE
) aircraft has completed a series of Wing Load Tests at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center – proving that the aircraft's all-composite 175-foot wing can withstand the level of dynamic stress it will be subjected to at altitudes of between 55,000 and 65,000 feet.
, Northrop Grumman’s sophisticated unmanned high altitude surveillance aircraft is finding its niche in unexpected areas. In April, 2010, in consort with NASA, a Global Hawk fitted with scientific instruments completed 82.5 flight hours cruising at latitudes ranging from the Arctic Circle to just near the equator as part of an ongoing civilian research program known as GloPac, or Global Hawk Pacific Program, which aims to study atmospheric conditions over the Pacific and Arctic oceans.
Zephyr, QinetiQ’s solar-powered, high-altitude long-endurance (HALE), Unmanned Air System (UAS) is currently in the air and setting a landmark unmanned flight duration record by demonstrating what is essentially perpetual flight. The official world record for the longest unmanned flight is 30 hours 24 minutes set by Northrop Grumman's RQ-4A Global Hawk
in 2001. A previous smaller relative of the current Zephyr holds the unofficial record of 82 hours
but this time QinetiQ has FIA officials on hand and has been flying the new 22.5m wingspan plane for the past week, and is closing on the 200 hour mark with another week (168 hours) planned. It needs to land safely to claim the record, but the feat has already demonstrated that the era of low-cost, persistent aerial surveillance has begun.
Unveiled earlier this week in St. Louis, Boeing's Phantom Eye will set a new benchmark in long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle
(UAV) technology when it takes to the skies in 2011. With a wing-span of 150-feet, the hydrogen-powered aircraft will cruise at 150 knots, carry up to 450-pounds and stay aloft at 65,000 feet for up to four days. Boeing calls it a game-changer, and plans are already in progress to build a bigger version that can remain airborne for 10 days.
The first of the next generation of Northrop Grumman’s Block 40 configuration RQ-4 Global Hawk
has successfully completed its first flight. The two hour flight took the aircraft from Northrop Grumman’s manufacturing facility in Palmdale, California to Edwards Air Force Base, California. Designated AF-18, the Block 40 configuration of the high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) will carry the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) active electronically scanned array radar that will help warfighters detect, track and identify stationary and moving targets.
Qinetiq’s Zephyr solar powered high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) has flown a world-beating three and a half day flight at the US Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The solar powered plane flew for 82 hours 37 minutes, exceeding the current official world record for unmanned flight which stands at 30 hours 24 minutes set by Global Hawk in 2001 and Zephyr's previous longest
flight of 54 hours achieved last year.
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.
October 30, 2007 The Boeing
Company has achieved a milestone in the development of its High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft by successfully testing a hydrogen propulsion system in simulated conditions of 65,000 feet. The test, conducted over more than three days using a Ford Motor Company-developed hydrogen engine (a gasoline version of which can be found in the Ford Fusion and Escape Hybrid) is a further step towards the realization of a UAV
designed to remain airborne for more than seven days and carry multi-sensor payloads of up to 2,000 pounds.
November 11, 2005 The Global Hawk UAV was still in its development stages when the needs of the war in Afghanistan saw it pressed into service. Since then, Global Hawk has successfully completed more than 225 missions through three deployments and more than 4,900 combat flight hours. Now the aircraft has been redesigned to carry 50% more payload, so the Air Force can install additional sensors, enhancing its ability to simultaneously collect imagery, signals intelligence and infrared and radar information, and transfer it to the warfighting machine in near-real time. Global Hawk flies autonomously at an altitude of more than 60,000 feet, above inclement weather and prevailing winds, for 35+ hours at a time. During a single mission, it can provide detailed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information in near-real time over 40,000 square miles - approximately the size of Illinois.
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.