In April – November 2005, NOAA and NASA conducted the Altair Integrated System Flight Demonstration Project in cooperation with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI). Altair is a high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) UAV platform built and operated by GA-ASI. A key goal was to evaluate unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) for future science and operational requirements within the agencies, related to oceanic and atmospheric research, climate research, marine sanctuary mapping and enforcement, nautical charting, and fisheries assessment and enforcement.

The Altair payload included remote and in situ instruments for measurements of ocean color, and atmospheric composition and temperature; and a surface imaging system. In situ composition measurements included ozone and long-lived gases such as halocarbons and nitrous oxide. The vertical distribution of water vapor was remotely measured with passive microwave sensors. Five flights were completed, for a total of 45.3 flight hours plus 20.6 on integration flights.  Flights reached altitudes of 45,000 ft and the longest duration flight was 18.4 hours.  Original flight objectives included sampling low-level jets in the eastern Pacific Ocean that bring moisture to the continental US; sampling regions of high potential vorticity at mid-latitudes that result from transport of polar air; and imaging of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS) to examine shorelines and evaluate the potential for marine enforcement surveillance.



LINK: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems LINK: NOAA LINK: NASA