This press release from NASA says that Altair, its latest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which features "feature triple-redundant flight systems and avionics for increased reliability," succcessfully made its first flight.
The slender-wing aircraft lifted off the runway at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems' Inc. (GA-ASI) flight test facility at El Mirage, Calif. The purpose of the historic first flight was to evaluate the UAV's basic airworthiness and flight controls. After the successful test flight, Altair glided to a landing on the remote desert runway. The entire flight was conducted at low altitude within a relatively short range of the El Mirage flight test facility.
According to NASA, the long, narrow wings of NASA's Altair are designed to allow the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to maintain long-duration flight at high altitudes.
What will be this aircraft used for?
Altair will first be used to evaluate various new control communications and collision-avoidance technologies that are critical to enabling UAVs to fly safely in national airspace. Eventually NASA will use Altair for a variety of environmental science missions, such as volcanic observation, forest fire monitoring and atmospheric sampling. The UAV may be ideal for missions that are often too dangerous, difficult or lengthy for manned aircraft.
Here are some technical details.
Altair has been designed to fly continuously for up to 32 hours. It can reach an altitude of approximately 52,000 feet and has a maximum range of about 4,200 miles. Altair can carry up to 750 pounds of sensors, radar, communications and imaging equipment in its forward fuselage. The Altair is 34 feet long, with a wingspan of 86 feet.
You can find more photographs at NASA Dryden Flight research Center website.
Source: Beth Beck, NASA press release, June 9, 2003
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