Global Observer crashes during test flight

April 4, 2011 at 8:47 AM
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MONROVIA, Calif., April 4 (UPI) -- The high-altitude, long-endurance Global Observer unmanned aerial vehicle by AeroVironment Inc. of California crashed 18 hours into its ninth flight test.

The crash at Edwards Air Force Base in California of the prototype, which uses hydrogen fuel, occurred Friday as the joint U.S. government and AeroVironment Global Observer team was in the process of expanding the flight envelope of the first air vehicle, which had been operating for nearly twice the endurance and at higher altitudes than previous flights.

"Flight testing an innovative new solution like Global Observer involves pushing the frontiers of technology and convention," said Tim Conver, AeroVironment chairman and chief executive officer. "Risk is a component of every flight test program and the learning that results from a mishap enables us to improve system reliability and performance."

Conver said an investigation into the crash was under way.

AeroVironment received the contract for developing and demonstrating Global Observer as a Defense Department Joint Capability Technology Demonstrations initiative in 2007. Six U.S. government agencies have provided more than $140 million in funding for the program, most of which has been expended.

The aircraft would provide continuous communications and remote sensing data for up to a week from an altitude of 65,000 feet.

AeroVironment said a second Global Observer prototype is nearly complete and remains at the company's development facility.

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