An unmanned aircraft crashed early Friday around 2:30 a.m. near the southwest corner of Rogers Dry Lakebed off the Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., where it was flying on test flights. The Global Observer designed and built by Aerovironment has a 175-foot wingspan. The unmanned aircraft was flying with the 412th Test Wing were testing the Global Observer to assess the aircraft’s potential government, civil and military uses.
The aircraft is designed to operate at high altitude, around 65,000 feet on missions up to one week long. From such altitude the aircraft will be able to have a ground line of sight up to 600 miles distance, covering an area of about 280,000 square miles. It is powered by a hybrid-electric propulsion system comprising four liquid-hydrogen powered engines, designe dfor operation at very high altitude backed up by battery powered props.
The Global Observer flew on its first flight from Edwards AFB on August 5, 2010. The Pentagon was hopeful that equipped with currently available payloads, two Global Observer aircraft would alternate coverage over any location on the globe every 5 to 7 days. The aircraft was providing a test platform for the evaluation of the platform, as well as for evaluating potential communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) payloads for future missions.