Vanilla Aircraft, LLC yesterday, Jan. 5, announced that on December 2, their VA001 unmanned aircraft system (UAS) completed a non-stop, unrefueled 56-hour flight. The flight was submitted for a world duration record for combustion-powered unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the 50-500 kg subclass (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale Class U-1.c Group 1). A representative from the US National Aeronautic Association was present to witness the record, the US company said.
The flight, planned as a 120-hour mission, was ended early due to forecasted severe icing and range restrictions. However, the airplane landed with enough JP-8 fuel on board for an additional 90 hours of flying, or enough for a total of six days of flight.
The VA001 started its historic flight on the morning of November 30, 2016 at New Mexico State University’s Unmanned Air Systems Flight Test Center near Las Cruces International Airport. For nearly 56 hours, the plane flew at an altitude between 6,500 feet and 7,500 feet above sea level, averaging 57 knots before landing on the afternoon of December 2.
The flight was supported by the technology innovation investments of the Department of Defense’s Rapid Reaction Technology Office (RRTO) and DARPA-funded efforts through Naval Air System Command (NAVAIR 4.11 – Patuxent River). Originating and ending at Las Cruces International Airport, the flight was conducted under the authority of the New Mexico State University UAS test site designated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).