AeroVironment’s GO-1 Global Observer hydrogen-powered high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft crashed at Edwards AFB, Calif., on April 1.

The aircraft was 18 hr. into its ninth envelope-expansion test flight.

The cause is being investigated. A second aircraft is almost complete, but funding for the U.S. Special Operations Command-led Global Observer joint concept technology demonstration (JCTD) is running out.

Early last month, AeroVironment told Aviation Week that the company was looking for sources of incremental funding beyond the end of March to provide a bridge between the demonstration and a future procurement program.

The original goal of the JCTD was to demonstrate at least five days’ endurance at 65,000 ft. Boeing plans to fly its company-funded Phantom Eye hydrogen-fueled HALE UAV demonstrator at Edwards later this year. Aurora Flight Sciences is to fly its Orion diesel-powered, five-day-endurance medium-altitude UAV this year under an Air Force-sponsored JCTD.

Wall Street analysts reacted negatively to the crash, saying it likely will damage the company’s near-term financial estimates. “We anticipate that this mishap will throw a wrench into future funding and testing,” says Michael Ciarmoli, vice president of KeyBanc Capital Markets.

“This is negative and will probably extend the timing of any program-of-record status,” echoed Michael Lewis of Lazard Capital Markets. While the second UAV is almost complete, “it is still uncertain when or if the system will make it to Edwards to continue testing.” Lewis thinks the program will be delayed but not canceled due to the time and resources already spent, and previous successes noted to date.

“Unfortunately, the program will now likely stretch from a late [calendar 2011] event to a mid-to-late [calender 2012] event,” Lewis says. “[Global Observer] fills an important capability gap; we don’t see the program going away.”