UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE
03 Jun 09. AeroVironment, Inc. announced that U.S. government agencies funding the Global Observer Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) program have exercised an option for the assembly of a third Global Observer aircraft and additional items. There have been six contract options exercised since the program was initiated, resulting in a cumulative value of more than $120m in program funding. “Global Observer is an entirely new solution designed to deliver affordable persistence for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications through a high altitude unmanned aircraft system with a flight duration of up to one week,” said Tim Conver, AV chief executive officer. “This and previous option exercises represent continued conviction regarding the value that Global Observer will provide and validation of the effectiveness of our joint AV, supplier and customer team in developing this important new solution.” Each completed Global Observer aircraft will take off from and land on a runway, and will have a payload capacity of approximately 400 pounds. A system consisting of two or more Global Observer aircraft flying sequentially would provide seamless, persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and communications relay over any area of interest around the globe in a manner that is expected to be much more cost effective and flexible than existing alternatives. The order for the third aircraft comes at the midpoint of the JCTD and follows a series of milestones in design, development and testing of the Global Observer system, including the successful Preliminary Design Review and Critical Design Review. The initial $57 million contract for a three-year development program was awarded to AV in September, 2007. Six government organizations are funding the JCTD program, reflecting broad interest in its capabilities for potential military and civil applications. The JCTD is intended to demonstrate the tactical utility of a hydrogen-powered UAS for long duration (up to seven day) missions at altitudes from 55,000 to 65,000 feet. Global Observer builds on nearly two decades of AV’s development and flight experience with stratospheric unmanned aircraft systems, including the record-setting Pathfinder and Helios solar-powered aircraft. To date AV has received contract option exercises for the development, fabrication and testing of three aircraft, two launch and recovery elements, Systems Integration Laboratory testing and other development items. Operation of the advanced hydrogen-fueled power generation system at simulated atmospheric conditions in an altitude chamber continues after previous successful, multi-day tests.
02 Jun 09. Protonex Technology Corporation received an additional $500,000 contract award from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) for advanced development of high power fuel cell systems for small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). This award is an extension of an existing contract with the NRL and will focus on incorporating and testing Protonex’ advanced fuel cell power system within a tactical UAV. Development work under this program will concentrate on advancing the technical readiness of the company’s UAV fuel cell platform through design improvements and stringent testing. The advanced system will be integrated into a new NRL air vehicle designed specifically for long endurance. The resulting UAV, powered by the Protonex fuel cell system, will be targeted at tactical missions and is expected to provide high efficiency and a very low noise profile. This program expands upon a series of efforts by Protonex to transition its fuel cell power systems into fieldable UAVs. At present, battery-powered electric UAVs are limited to one to three hours of flight. Protonex power systems, integrated into other small UAVs, have already demonstrated up to four times the flight endurance capability of advanced batteries. With the introduction of cutting-