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The first Romanian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to go beyond Armstrong's line in a controlled flight in Romanian airspace, reaching 23 km in altitude

on 02 August 2019

On Thursday, 18 July 2019, a team of researchers from the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA) together with specialists from the Romanian Association for Space Technology and Industry (ROMSPACE), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the National Centre for Air Defence Training „Brigade General Ion Bungescu” have successfully operated a Romanian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) at high altitudes. The vehicle reached 23 km in altitude, becoming the first Romanian UAV to go beyond the 18-km altitude milestone in a controlled flight in Romanian airspace. Above the so-called Armstrong's line humans rapidly lose their conscience and suffer serious physical damage.

The vehicle was launched into the stratosphere using a weather balloon from the Capu Midia shooting range, a training camp for the Romanian Armed Forces in Constanța county. The maximum altitude during the flight was 23 km and the plane covered 40 km horizontally, above the Black Sea. The mission duration was four hours, after which the vehicle landed at a predefined area.

This becomes the first Romanian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to go beyond Armstrong's line (18 km altitude) during a controlled flight. Armstrong's line represents the altitude from which atmospheric pressure is so low that water boils at normal body temperature. If exposed to these conditions, humans would rapidly lose conscience and face serious neurologic and heart damage. For comparison, passenger planes normally fly at 10-12 km altitudes, while fighter jets ascend to about 15-18 km.

The flight was carried out automatically and monitored from the ground using telemetry. The launch, flight and landing were assisted by safety teams from the National Centre for Air Defence Training „Brigade General Ion Bungescu” at Capu Midia.

The vehicle, autopilot, flight monitoring systems, as well as other elements involved in stratospheric missions have been developed by a Romanian research team since 2006.

“Our goal was to improve and extend the performance of the guidance system for stratospheric missions. For the European Space Agency, such a flight allows determination of atmospheric parameters that help characterise the atmosphere: pressure, humidity, temperature”, declared for Adevarul Florin Mingireanu, a researcher at the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA).

The plane is part of a larger family of similar vehicles that can fly missions at both low and high altitudes. This kind of UAV missions has been carried out so far in several geographical areas reaching altitudes of 40 km.


Main Image: Image from the on-board camera of the Romanian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, at 22.8 km altitude. The image shows North of Mamaia area.
Image credit: ROSA

2019 08 TestMidia B

Image from the on-board camera of the Romanian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, at 24 km altitude and 120 m/s speed.
Image credit: ROSA

2019 08 TestMidia C

Flight path showing the ascent (under the weather balloon) and the controlled return trajectory, including the segment above the Armstrong limit, at 22.8 km altitude.
Image credit: ROSA

2019 08 TestMidia D

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that successfully flew at high altitudes on Thursday, 18 July 2019.
Image credit: ROSA