The four-hour flight from Edwards Air Force Base in California marked the beginning of high-altitude, long-endurance flight testing for the demonstration and operational utility phase of the Joint Capability Technology Demonstration program, the company said.
"Global Observer has moved quickly from development and testing toward demonstrating mission-ready, affordable persistence," said Tim Conver, AeroVironment 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."
The hydrogen-powered flight lasted four hours and reached an altitude of 5,000 feet above sea level. The flight follows the successful battery-powered flight test phase of the demonstration program that took place in August and September.
AeroVironment said the flight test team will 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 Tactical Communications Suite payload.
AeroVironment received the contract for developing and demonstrating Global Observer as a JCTD program in 2007. Six U.S. government agencies have provided more than $140 million in funding for the program.