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AeroVironment's Global Observer stratospheric unmanned aircraft system completes initial flight testing

AeroVironment, Inc.(AV) (NASDAQ:AVAV) today announced that the first aircraft developed under the Global Observer™ Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) program has successfully completed initial flight testing consisting of multiple low-altitude flights at Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB) in California. This initial flight test phase of the demonstration program employed batteries to power the hybrid-electric aircraft and to approximate full aircraft weight and center of gravity for flight control, performance and responsiveness evaluation.

The program team has installed and is currently ground testing the aircraft's innovative, hydrogen-fueled generator and liquid hydrogen fuel tanks which will power it through stratospheric, extreme endurance flights during the joint operational utility assessment phase of the program.

"These successful flights validated Global Observer's airworthiness, and represent critical milestones as the team proceeds toward demonstrating stratospheric, extreme endurance operations," said Tim Conver, AV's president and chief executive officer. "The liquid-hydrogen fueled flight test series will be historic for AV and the JCTD team as Global Observer moves closer to demonstrating mission-readiness and supporting our troops whenever and wherever needed."

The initial test flights took place during the months of August and September and have succeeded in achieving the primary objectives of the low altitude flight test program. The primary objectives for initial flight testing were to test guidance, manual and autonomous controls, navigation, structural performance, thrust levels and handling in various winds and turbulence conditions.

AV also has successfully operated Global Observer's hydrogen-fueled generator for more than 1,500 hours in a specialized environmental chamber, including an uninterrupted 7-day mission cycle. The chamber subjects the generator to the range of temperatures, pressures and air densities that the aircraft will experience during the climb, loiter and descent stages of high altitude missions. Successful wing load tests performed in August validated the Global Observer wing at its load limit.

AV is 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. Six U.S. government agencies have provided funding for the JCTD program.

Global Observer is 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 is 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. Because of its extreme endurance the Global Observer system can be based out-of-theater, reducing costs, supply chain requirements and potential risk to operational personnel.

Press release issued by AeroVironment, Inc. on October 25, 2010


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