NASA has announced a new High-Altitude Long-Endurance (HALE) UAS it is developing with a partner that could undertake flights that last weeks.
In a post on its website, NASA described the work its Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, has been doing with Swift Engingeering on the drone.
The Swift HALE UAS weights 180lbs, can carry a 15lb payload and can fly at 70,000 feet for upwards of 30 days, according to NASA.
It noted that the aircraft’s wide variety of uses span science, agriculture, and disaster response.
A successful two-hour test flight has provided the team with the confidence that the craft will work for 30-day flights, it said.
Andrew Streett, Swift Engineering vice president of technology, said: “This program signifies an important partnership with NASA Science and Aeronautics – together, we designed a UAS that fulfills the agency’s use cases and aligns with the Federal Aviation Administration’s vision of how HALE vehicles should be deployed and maintained for extended periods.
“Sustained, long-duration flights are only just becoming a reality with a new generation of batteries and power efficiencies.”
Meanwhile, Matt Fladeland, a researcher at Ames, commented: “Current NASA science aircraft can meet most – but not all – observing system requirements; HALE aircraft can provide unique data to complement and improve NASA measurements from orbit.
“Developing the HALE with Swift has opened up more possibilities than we initially imagined. The successful flight test is an important first step towards realizing a new capability to support NASA science.”