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.

During the test, the full-scale wing successfully passed load testing for positive (pulling up) and negative (pushing down) directions. The data will be used for validation of the design as well as flight test comparisons.

“These successful tests confirm that the Global Observer wing, one of the most critical elements of the system, is prepared to handle the stress of high altitude, long endurance flight,” said Tim Conver, AV’s chairman and chief executive officer. “With ground and wing load testing behind us we look forward to demonstrating Global Observer’s unique ability to fly longer and higher over any location than any other aircraft.”

Designed for surveillance, communications and border patrol missions, the Global Observer will be capable of staying aloft for up to a week at a time, keeping tabs on a circular area up to 600 miles in diameter, or more than 280,000 square miles. The system also has the potential to provide life-saving remote imagery and backup communications during disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires.

AeroVironment developed the one third scale, liquid hydrogen fueled Global Observer “Odyssey” prototype in 2005 and the Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) with the Department of Defense and NASA started in September 2007. Six U.S. government agencies have provided more than US$120 million in funding for the JCTD program which is due for operational assessment in 2011.

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