RQ-22 Global Observer - Design
The AeroVironment, Inc. RQ-22 Global Observer was a high-altitude, long-endurance UAV with a wingspan of 250 feet, using a liquid hydrogen propulsion system. The Global Observer was a 70-foot-long drone with a wingspan nearly as great as the Air Force B-52 bombers. Powered by liquid-hydrogen fuel cells, it was designed to provide persistent presence capable of loitering at 65,000 feet for a week a time without spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The drone's 380-pound payload of cameras and other sensors could stare at a diameter of 600 miles of earth at once, while doubling as a communications relay.
Because of its extreme endurance and range, the Global Observer can be based out-of-theater, which would further reduce operating costs and local air traffic congestion while significantly reducing risk to operational personnel. Two Global Observer aircraft, each flying for up to a week at a time, could alternate coverage over any area on the earth, providing a seamless, persistent platform for high-value missions such as communications relay, remote sensing, long-term surveillance and border patrol.
With 20 years of experience developing high altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), AeroVironment, Inc. (AV) was developing Global Observer to operate as a "stratospheric geosynchronous satellite system" with regional coverage and no signal delay. Two Global Observer aircraft, each flying for up to a week at a time, would alternate coverage over any area on the earth, providing a seamless, persistent platform for high value missions such as communications relay, remote sensing, long-term surveillance and border patrol. Offering greater flexibility than a satellite and significantly longer duration than conventional manned and unmanned aircraft, Global Observer was designed to provide critical new capabilities in a reliable and more affordable manner, all while consuming no fossil fuels and emitting no carbon emissions.
AV was developing the Global Observer unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to be the first to provide robust, cost-effective and persistent communications and surveillance over any location. Global Observer was designed to perform above and beyond the capabilities of any other existing aircraft. The unique benefit of this truly unblinking eye would be its ability to watch, listen and relay communications signals flexibly, affordably and without interruption. The need for affordable and seamless persistence was great, and AV looked forward to demonstrating this important capability during the final phase of the Global Observer JCTD program.
Each aircraft in a Global Observer system was designed to fly at an altitude of between 55,000 and 65,000 feet for 5 to 7 days. In addition to flying above weather and above other conventional airplanes, operation in this altitude range means that sensor payloads on the aircraft would be able to view a circular area on the surface of the earth up to 600 miles in diameter, equivalent to more than 280,000 square miles of coverage. Equipped with payloads that are readily available today, two Global Observer aircraft would alternate coverage over any location on the globe every 5 to 7 days, making this the first solution to provide customers with practical, seamless coverage, wherever and whenever required.
Global Observer was designed to address an urgent national security need for a persistent stratospheric platform and to offer a means to satisfy numerous high value civil and commercial applications. The system was intended to provide mission capabilities that include robust observation over areas with little or no existing coverage, persistent communications relay, the ability to relocate the system as required by theater commanders, dedicated communications support to other UAS and tactical on-station weather monitoring and data support.
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