Swift Engineering, in partnership with NASA’s Ames Research Center, has completed the maiden flight of its high altitude long endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial system (UAS). The flight trials took place at Spaceport America, a private commercial spaceport in New Mexico that is home to other spaceflight companies such as Virgin Galactic.
The unmanned aircraft, which Swift claims is the only US-made platform in its class, received a full systems check, thus validating its configuration and confirming its suitability for high-altitude continuous surveillance missions. It is designed to operate at 70,000 feet in the upper atmosphere, providing 24-hour persistent presence for commercial and military surveillance, monitoring, communications, and security applications. Intended as an affordable alternative to satellites, the 72-foot solar-powered air vehicle weighs less than 180 pounds and can safely carry up to 15-pound payloads for missions.
The Swift HALE UAS has already been awarded two technology patents as well as airworthiness certifications from NASA and the FAA’s Certificate of Authorization (COA), enabling the unmanned aircraft to fly in commercial airspace.
Andrew Streett, Vice President of Technology at Swift Engineering, commented: “The partnership with NASA’s earth science team is significant. Using the agency’s mission cases, we developed a cost-efficient power and propulsion system that can withstand harsh temperatures, radiation, and stratospheric conditions, while providing and storing enough energy to enable persistent long-duration flights. The calculations from the flight test validates all of our safety and design requirements.”
Rick Heise, President and CEO of Swift Engineering, said: “The applications of this technology will usher in a new era of data acceleration. Swift is able to deliver what no other industry or defense contractor can provide in the US market. I am extremely proud of our team and our great partners at NASA for this remarkable feat of innovation. We are excited about our global commercialization plans.”