Vanilla Aircraft VA001 UAS Flies Non-Stop for 56 Hours



Vanilla Aircraft has announced that its VA001 unmanned aircraft completed a 56-hour flight on Dec. 2, 2016, taking off and landing from the Las Cruces International Airport in Doña Ana County, New Mexico.

The flight, which was conducted without stopping or refueling during the 56 hours, was submitted for a world duration record for combustion-powered UAS in the 50-500 kilogram subclass (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale Class U-1.c Group 1).

“This effort represents tremendous and unprecedented coordination among civil, defense, academic, and private industry to bring a heretofore only imagined capability to reality,” says CEO Tim Heely.

During the flight, the UAS carried 20 pounds of actual and simulated payload, and it also flew between 6,500 to 7,500 feet above mean sea level. The flight also brought Vanilla Aircraft one step closer to fulfilling its larger objective of showcasing the UAS’ ability to carry a 30-pound payload for 10 days at an altitude of 15,000 feet.

The initial flight plan was for 120 hours, but the UAS had to land early due to forecasted inclement weather and range restrictions. According to Vanilla Aircraft, the vehicle had enough JP-8 fuel on board to fly for another 90 hours.

According to co-founder and program manager Jeremy Novara, the VA001 has a variety of potential commercial uses, including in agriculture, as well as filling the cost and payload-capability market gap between small electric and large military UAS.

Neil Boertlein, co-founder and chief engineer, echoed those sentiments.

“The VA001 has transformational potential, providing a scalable aerial system solution without increasing personnel or operating costs,” says Neil Boertlein, co-founder and chief engineer.

“The ability of a low-cost platform to provide persistent surveillance, battlefield pattern of life, or aerial mesh network relay, in a responsive and robust manner, and without forward basing, does not currently exist.”

The Department of Defense’s Rapid Reaction Technology Office (RRTO), and DARPA-funded efforts through Naval Air System Command (NAVAIR 4.11 – Patuxent River), contributed technology innovation investments to support the flight.

The company was the winner of the $15,000 top prize at AUVSI’s Startup Showdown, part of Xponential 2016 in New Orleans.

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