The Global Observer UAV from AeroVironment, of Monrovia, Calif., successfully completed a series of wing load tests, the company said Wednesday. The full-size wing was developed as part of the Global Observer Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) program.
The joint Department of Defense, NASA and AV team successfully performed the tests at the Flight Loads Laboratory located at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The team designed and built a specialized test fixture to apply loads to the modular, all-composite 175-foot Global Observer wing. Wing loading refers to the dynamic stress that aircraft wings experience as a result of normal flight, turbulent air and aircraft maneuvers. The primary purpose of the test is to demonstrate the integrity of the Global Observer wing structure and acquire data that allow for validation of the design and comparison to actual flight test data, according to the company.
Global Observer is designed to robust and persistent communications and surveillance over any location, without latitude restrictions, the company said. The Global Observer JCTD program is sponsored by six U.S. government agencies that have provided more than $120 million in funding.
"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 CEO. "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. That ability can translate into more valuable reconnaissance and communications at a lower cost to military and non-military customers."
Each aircraft in a Global Observer system is designed to fly at an altitude of between 55,000 and 65,000 feet for five to seven days. In addition to flying above weather and above other conventional airplanes, operation in this altitude range means that communications relay payloads on the aircraft could potentially be able to service 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. Two Global Observer aircraft would alternate operation over any location on the globe every five to seven days to provide seamless coverage, making this the first solution to provide customers with practical, affordable coverage, wherever and whenever required.