AeroVironment (AV), a developer of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and electric vehicle systems, has successfully completed the world’s first liquid-hydrogen-powered UAV flight tests.
The fifty-foot wingspan prototype aircraft operated entirely on liquid hydrogen fuel for more than one hour on each of two test flights flight and was flown under both manual control and autonomous waypoint navigation.
AeroVironment is designing the Global Observer hydrogen HALE platform to operate at 65,000 feet for over a week with a flexible payload-carrying capacity of up to 1,000 pounds. The liquid hydrogen powers fuel cells driving eight electric propellers.
AV is confident that a Global Observer system can be deployed for U.S. government applications within two years.
AeroVironment has been operating unmanned high-altitude platforms in the stratosphere for more than a decade and conducted over 50 flight tests on its earlier developmental electric HALE UAVs. Working with NASA, AV broke the world altitude record for all aircraft in level flight by flying an unmanned electric powered aircraft to 96,863 feet—well above the planned 65,000 feet operating altitude of the Global Observer.
In collaboration with the Japan Ministry of Post & Telecommunications, with payloads from NEC and Toshiba, AV also demonstrated the world’s first use of a UAV system for telecommunications applications from 65,000 feet.