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Global Observer starts switch to hydrogen power

AeroVironment has completed the initial round of flight testing of Global Observer under battery power and installed the hydrogen-fueled generator and liquid hydrogen fuel tanks that will ultimately power the high-altitude long-endurance unmanned system.

Ground testing of the liquid hydrogen system is underway with flight tests expected in November, says Tom Herring, AeroVironment's senior vice president and general manager of unmanned systems on the first day of the AUSA trade show.

The hydrogen-fuelled generator has successfully undergone an uninterrupted 7-day mission cycle in a test chamber that simulated the temperature and pressure changes of a high-altitude climb, loiter and descent, AeroVironment says.

 Global Observer UAV, Aeroviroment
© AeroVironment

Global Observer is designed to fly for five to seven days at a time, at altitudes of 55,000-65,000ft (16,800-19,800m) carrying a 172kg (380lb) communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payload. The unmanned air vehicle will burn liquid hydrogen in an internal-combustion engine to drive a generator and produce electricity to power four propellers and charge the back-up batteries.

AeroViornment will ultimately deliver two Global Observers to the Pentagon under a joint capability technology demonstration programme.

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