The first AeroVironment Global Observer unmanned aircraft has completed ground testing before its first flight.

The unmanned aircraft system is designed to stay aloft continuously for between five and seven days, providing "ultra-persistent" communications and surveillance coverage.

After system trials in March and April, Aircraft 1 most recently performed taxi tests at Edwards AFB, California. These confirmed its autonomous propulsion, datalink operation, steering and braking, the company says.

 Global Observer - AeroVironment
© AeroVironment

Once fully operational, Global Observer's eight wing-mounted engines are to be powered by liquid hydrogen fuel cells.

Initial flight-testing, however, will consist of low-altitude battery-powered flights to evaluate airworthiness and handling qualities.

After this is complete, surveillance and communication payloads will be loaded for testing.

Six US government agencies have contributed $120 million to the joint capability technology demonstration programme under which Global Observer is being developed.

Final assembly of Aircraft 2 is proceeding at AeroVironment's manufacturing facility in southern California.

Source: Flight International