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Global Observer Enters New Flight Test Phase: AeroVironment announced Tuesday that its Global Observer remotely piloted aircraft successfully completed its first flight while powered by its hydrogen-fueled propulsion system. During the four-hour flight on Jan. 6, Global Observer reached an altitude of 5,000 feet above sea level over Edwards AFB, Calif. "Global Observer has moved quickly from development and testing toward demonstrating mission-ready, affordable persistence," said Tim Conver, company chairman. This flight marked the beginning of high-altitude, long-endurance flight testing under an Office of the Secretary of Defense-sponsored evaluation. This new phase follows a series of battery-powered flights that Global Observer began last August. Global Observor is built to operate at altitudes up to 65,000 ft. It is meant to provide persistent surveillance and communications links over large swaths of land, rivaling a satellite, but at a fraction of the cost. (See also Los Angeles Times report)