Feeds

Hydrogen powered hybrid stratocraft prangs during test flight

Special-ops comms bird built for a week 12 miles up

Boost IT visibility and business value

A radical new prototype hydrogen-powered high altitude robot aircraft, intended to remain airborne for a week at a time, has crashed during a test flight in California.

The Global Observer drone, which had taken off 18 hours previously from Edwards airforce base, was lost at 2:30pm local time on Friday. It was the aircraft's ninth test flight in a technology-demonstration programme intended to prove endurance of at least five days cruising at 65,000 feet.

"Flight testing an innovative new solution like Global Observer involves pushing the frontiers of technology and convention," said Tim Conver, CEO of famous crazy-planes firm AeroVironment, manufacturer of the Observer. "Risk is a component of every flight test program."

The Global Observer was being developed for various US government bodies, including the military special-operations command. It was expected to be able to remain on station 12 miles up above battlefields, with only small numbers of aircraft based safely far away able to maintain constant patrols. It would have carried communications equipment able to provide high-bandwidth services to small, portable ground terminals using compact antennae.

At the moment US special ops teams or others far from groundbased wireless coverage must typically accept rubbish bandwidth or set up a bulky, inconvenient satellite antenna, or arrange for an expensive conventional comms aircraft on station overhead, a commitment which means tying up a lot of planes and personnel. Thus the capability offered by the Global Observer and its various rivals (other high-altitude hydrogen planes, dirigible sperm-ships etc) remains highly desirable.

The Global Observer was expected to achieve excellent high-altitude performance and long endurance by its use of electrically-driven propellors hooked up to a battery supplied by a generator. This generator was driven by an internal-combustion engine running on hydrogen.

The electric transmission is a signature method for AeroVironment, which has built many other electrically-propelled aircraft. The Global Observer's rival in the 65,000-foot drone arena, the Phantom Eye from Boeing, uses two slightly modified turbocharged Ford Fusion car engines running on hydrogen: but these drive the props directly. The Phantom Eye is only expected to offer four days' endurance, as compared to a probable seven for the hybridised Observer.

No details on the problems which caused the Observer to crash are yet available. Another Observer prototype has been built and might proceed with testing, but AeroVironment admits that most of the project's funding has already been spent. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
LOHAN packs bags for SPACEPORT AMERICA!
Spanish launch goes titsup, we're off to the US of A
BAT-GOBBLING urban SPIDER QUEENS swell to ENORMOUS SIZE
But they'd lose a deathmatch against the coming Humvee-sized, armoured Arctic ones
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
TRANSMUTATION claims US LENR company
Ten points of stuff out of a five pound bag
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?