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NASA Dryden Past Projects: Altus II Remotely Piloted Aircraft
August 12, 2009
 The remotely-piloted Altus II aircraft flying over the California desert.The remotely-piloted Altus II aircraft flying over the California desert.

General Atomics' Altus vehicle was used to verify technologies that will lead to a long-duration (12 to 72 hours), high-altitude vehicle capable of carrying a 330 pound science payload. The efforts include work on engine integration, flight operations techniques and procedures, lightweight structures, science payload integration, and science mission demonstration.

In October 1996, Altus set an endurance record for RPV's carrying science payloads. The vehicle spent more than 24 hours at the required altitude during a Department of Energy atmospheric-radiation measurement experiment. Altus was modified to a dual turbocharger configuration and returned to flight test in the Spring of 1998. The dual turbo-charged aircraft accomplished flights of 3 hours above 55,000 feet altitude and 8 hours at 50,000 feet altitude in March, 1999.

Altus Vehicle Description

Owner General Atomics Aeronautical System Inc. and NASA
Manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical System Inc.
Fuselage Length 23.6 ft.
Wingspan 55.3 ft.
Wing Area 132 ft.
Aspect Ratio 23.2
Maximum Take-off Weight 2,150 lb
Payload 330 lb
Maximum Altitude 68,000 ft.
Mission Duration 30 hrs.
Structure Composite Construction
Engine Rotax 912-2T
Engine Horsepower 100 @ 52,000 ft.
Propeller 8.2 ft. in Diameter

Altus II remotely piloted aircraft instruments and camera lenses.Altus II remotely piloted aircraft shows off some of the instruments and camera lenses mounted in its nose. Project Milestones

September 5, 1996 Altus reaches a personal best by attaining 37,000 feet for more than 2 hours.
October 1996 Altus sets endurance record for RPV's carrying science payloads on a 26-hour flight.
Summer 1997 Altus reaches 43,500 feet during development flights.
Spring 1998 Altus returns to flight test
March 1999 Altus flies for three hours above 55,000 feet and eight hours at 50,000 feet altitude.
July 23, 1999 Altus flies to 55,000 feet over 4 hours.

Altus Links
Fact Sheet      Photos

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Page Last Updated: February 8th, 2014
Page Editor: Yvonne Gibbs