Hydrogen-Powered UAV Flies

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The world's first liquid-hydrogen-powered unmanned aerial vehicle has flown successfully, AeroVironment of California announced last week. The Global Observer High-Altitude Long-Endurance (HALE) prototype has a 50-foot wingspan and is intended for operations at up to 65,000 feet, where it can fly for over a week with a payload of up to 1,000 pounds, the company said. It flew in Arizona on May 26 and again on June 2, each flight lasting over an hour. "We are now ready to quickly satisfy an urgent national security need for an affordable, persistent HALE system for communications relay and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions," said Tim Conver, AeroVironment's president and chief executive. During the flight tests, the company successfully used mobile fueling operations, which was the last technical challenge to making the system work. Liquid hydrogen is seen as a cleaner replacement for current fuels, because the only emission is water vapor. Customers could use two aircraft in rotation to provide communication-relay and remote-sensing systems.