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January 5, 2017

DARPA demonstrates endurance capability of Vanilla Aircraft VA001

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has successfully flown a small diesel-powered airplane built by Vanilla Aircraft.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has successfully flown a small diesel-powered airplane built by Vanilla Aircraft.

The Vanilla Aircraft VA001 took off from New Mexico State University’s Unmanned Air Systems Flight Test Center on 30 November last year.

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) safely landed back on 2 December after completing the 56 hour-long flight, with more than half its fuel still onboard.

According to the agency, the plane flew at an altitude between 6,500ft and 7,500ft above sea level, averaging 57k before landing.

The airplane has been designed to carry a 30lb payload at 15,000ft for up to ten days without refuelling.

DARPA programme manager Jean-Charles Ledé 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.

"The airplane has been designed to carry a 30lb payload at 15,000ft for up to ten days without refuelling."

"We’re very pleased with what the Vanilla team has accomplished.”

The flight has achieved the world duration record for combustion-powered UAVs in the 50kg to 500kg subclass, DARPA said in a statement.

Military troops currently use small UAVs to bring extra communications or intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to the field.


Image:  The Vanilla Aircraft. Photo: courtesy of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

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