UV - Unmanned Vehicles

Vanilla Aircraft UAV sets record

9th January 2017 - 10:01 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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The VA001 UAS has set a long-endurance record for combustion-powered UAS in the 50-500kg (Group 1) class, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced on 4 January.

The UAS, built by Vanilla Aircraft is a propeller-driven UAS designed to carry a 30lbs payload at 15,000ft for up to 10 days without refuelling.

The record-breaking flight took place in New Mexico, with the aircraft departing the New Mexico State University’s UAS Flight Test Center near Las Cruces International Airport on 30 November. The UAS landed nearly 56 hours later on 2 December after flying at an altitude between 6,500 and 7,500ft above sea level, averaging 57kts. The flight was terminated several days ahead of schedule because of incoming weather, and the UAS landed with more than half its fuel still on board. The record was certified by the National Aeronautic Association.

It is hoped that the UAS’ design may open up longer endurance UAS for military applications. Current small UAS bring extra communications or intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to the field, but their use is constrained by their need for frequent refuelling, specialised launch and recovery equipment, and regular maintenance, which often limits them to flying from fixed bases close to the front lines.

Jean-Charles Ledé, DARPA program manager, said: ‘This record-breaking flight demonstrated the feasibility of designing a low-cost UAV able to take off from one side of a continent, fly to the other, perform its duties for a week, and come back—all on the same tank of fuel.

‘This capability would help extend the footprint of small units by providing scalable, persistent UAV-based communications and ISR coverage without forward basing, thereby reducing personnel and operating costs. We’re very pleased with what the Vanilla team has accomplished.’

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