AeroVironment (AV), based in Monrovia, Calif., announced Tuesday that the first aircraft developed under the Global Observer Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) program completed ground tests in preparation for flight testing. The joint Department of Defense, NASA and AV team performed ground vibration, structural and taxi tests at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. AV developed and fabricated Aircraft 1 in its dedicated manufacturing facility located in Southern California and shipped it to the base in December.
AV said it is developing the Global Observer unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to be the first to provide robust, cost-effective and persistent communications and surveillance over any location. Six U.S. government agencies have provided more than $120 million in funding for the JCTD program. Each aircraft in a Global Observer system is designed to fly at an altitude of between 55,000 and 65,000 feet for 5 to 7 days. Operation in this altitude range means that sensor payloads on the aircraft will be able to view a circular area on the surface of the earth up to 600 miles in diameter, equivalent to more than 280,000 square miles of coverage. Equipped with payloads that are readily available today, two Global Observer aircraft would alternate coverage over any location on the globe every 5 to 7 days.
“Global Observer is designed to perform above and beyond the capabilities of any other existing aircraft. The unique benefit of this truly unblinking eye will be its ability to watch, listen and relay communications signals flexibly, affordably and without interruption,” said Tim Conver, AV’s chairman and CEO. “The need for affordable and seamless persistence is great, and we look forward to demonstrating this important capability during the final phase of the Global Observer JCTD program.”
A final Flight Readiness Review will be conducted to formally review and approve the initiation of flight testing. Initial flight testing will consist of low-altitude battery-powered flights at Edwards AFB to evaluate the aircraft's airworthiness and handling qualities. Communications relay and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) payloads are being prepared for installation into the aircraft. Once development flight tests have been completed, payloads will be installed and joint operational utility flight demonstrations will be performed at Edwards AFB. Final assembly of Aircraft 2 is proceeding at the AV Global Observer manufacturing facility.