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Altus aircraft on runway Altus aircraft on runway

Photo Number: EC96-43560-1
Photo Date: May 1, 1996

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The remotely piloted Altus aircraft flew several developmental test flights from Rogers Dry Lake adjacent to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., in 1996.

The Altus--the word is Latin for “high”--is a variant of the Predator surveillance drone built by General Atomics/Aeronautical Systems, Inc. It is designed for high-altitude, long-duration scientific sampling missions, and is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder piston engine. The first Altus was developed under NASA’s Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology program, while a second Altus was built for a Naval Postgraduate School/Department of Energy program. A pilot in a control station on the ground flew the craft by radio signals, using visual cues from a video camera in the nose of the Altus and information from the craft’s air data system. Equipped with a single-stage turbocharger during the 1996 test flights, the first Altus reached altitudes in the 37,000-foot range, while the similarly-equipped second Altus reached 43,500 feet during developmental flights at Dryden in the summer of 1997. The NASA Altus also set an endurance record of more than 26 hours while flying a science mission in late 1996 and still had an estimated 10 hours of fuel remaining when it landed. Now equipped with a two-stage turbocharger, the NASA Altus maintained an altitude of 55,000 feet for four hours during flight tests in 1999.

NASA Photo by: NASA photo

Keywords: Altus I; Altus II; ERAST; Naval Postgraduate School; high altitude; long duration; turbocharged; Predator surveillance drone; General Atomics/Aeronautical Systems Inc.; Department of Energy/Sandia National Laboratory; Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology program

Last Modified: February 6, 2002
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