Magazine article National Defense

Liquid Hydrogen-Powered Drones within Reach

Magazine article National Defense

Liquid Hydrogen-Powered Drones within Reach

Article excerpt

HONOLULU -- As the demand for unmanned aerial vehicles continues to soar, companies are producing systems that fly higher for longer periods and can carry more payloads, including lethal weapons.

One of the newest systems in development is the Global Observer, which can fly at 55,000 to 65,000 feet for as long as a week and provide 2,500-mile radius coverage.

"We're building a stratospheric truck that can carry a number of payloads," said John Grabowsky, vice president and general manager of Monrovia, Calif.-based AeroVironment inc.

Global Observer will run on liquid hydrogen fuel, which has an energy density that is 3.5 to 4 times that of fossil fuels, said Grabowsky.

A 1/3 scale model prototype, Odyssey, took flight in May 2005. With a 50-foot wingspan, the aircraft proved that liquid hydrogen-powered technology is within reach for unmanned systems, he added.

The Global Observer is in the early stages of the military's joint capability technology demonstration program, which strives to expedite novel technology and concepts to the battlefield, it will proceed through assessments by Special Operations Command for a sole source three-year contract of up to $129 million to provide "stratospheric persistence. …

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