“Mishap” to AeroVironment Global Observer

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

It wasn’t an April Fool’s Day joke, even though AeroVironment’s press release is dated April 1.  Their Global Observer crashed in the Mojave Desert during extended duration flight testing.  AeroVironment stressed that there were “No injuries or damage to other property reported during envelope expansion flight testing,” and that an “Investigation Board will be convened to probe the cause and provide details of the mishap.” The mishap occurred at 2:30 a. m., approximately 18 hours into the craft’s ninth test flight.  AeroVironment’s press release continues, “’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. One benefit of testing an unmanned aircraft system is that pilots and crew are not in harm’s way when a mishap occurs.’” The flight test team, …

Boeing’s PhantomEye Powers Up

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

While AeroVironment’s Global Observer High Altitude Long Endurance aircraft has flown at the NASA Dryden Flight Test Center, Boeing’s PhantomEye HALE is in pieces but undergoing testing prior to being shipped to Dryden.  PhantomEye’s hydrogen-fueled engines are being tested at Santa Clarita, California and airframe parts are being prepared for flight at Boeing’s St. Louis, Missouri plant.   AeroVironment’s craft has now flown with fuel cells providing electricity to run the four wing-mounted motors.  PhantomEye uses hydrogen stored in eight-foot diameter tanks in its fuselage to directly fuel the twin Ford 2.3-liter modified engines.  At altitude, a three-stage turbocharger will be required to provide air for an efficient fuel burn. Both unmanned aerial vehicles have similar missions, to fly at 65,000 feet for up to a week at a time while providing surveillance, monitoring, and communication for military and civilian applications.

Flying High on Hydrogen

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

AeroVironment announced that their Global Observer™ reached an altitude of 5,000 feet (mean sea level) over Edwards Air Force Base and stayed up for four hours – all on its hydrogen-powered electric motors.  Having made its first flights last August and September on battery power, the Global Observer on January 11, 2011 successfully demonstrated the system that will allow it to stay airborne for up to a week at a time, staying on station at 65,000 feet. This ability to maintain “persistent” communications and surveillance enables to the Global Observer to be flown in from areas remote from a combat theater or natural disaster location, and to uninterrupted observation of the situation.  AeroVironment claims that, “Two Global Observer aircraft, each flying for up to a week at a time, will alternate coverage over any area on the earth, providing a seamless, persistent platform for high value missions such as communications relay, remote sensing, long-term surveillance and border patrol. Offering greater …

HALE Another: AeroVironment’s Global Observer

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

We reported last month on Boeing’s High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle, the Phantom Eye.  Now AeroVironment’s similar HALE, the Global Observer, is undergoing initial flight testing at NASA Dryden Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California. Meant to provide “persistent” communications and remote sensing capabiliies for military or civilian applications, the less-than-10,000-pound Global Observer can carry 400-pound payloads to 65,000 feet and stay there for a week on its four electric motors, which resemble larger versions of  the Astro-Flight motors used on Helios, Pathfinder, and other AeroVironment craft. Missions, according to the firm, include “low cost, rapidly deployable telecommunications infrastructure and GPS augmentation; hurricane and storm tracking, weather monitoring, wildfire detection, and sustained support for relief operations; and aerial imaging and mapping for commercial and environmental monitoring, agriculture crop management and harvesting optimization.” The airplane’s cruising altitude and “field of view” place it between smaller, tactical reconnaissance craft and satellites. It’s 175-foot wingspan, large cargo pod …