Lockheed Martin Skunk Works demonstrated the expanded endurance capabilities of a specially configured Lockheed Martin Stalker VXE unmanned aerial system (UAS) through a world record endurance flight on Feb. 18, 2022, at the Santa Margarita Ranch in California.
The flight establishes a new record in the Group 2 (5 to <25-kilogram) category with a flight time of 39 hours, 17 minutes and 7 seconds. The flight has been submitted to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the world sanctioning body for aviation records, through its U.S. affiliate, the National Aeronautic Association, for certification. A production Stalker VXE was modified for this record-setting flight with an external, wing-mounted fuel tank. The flight provided valuable insight for improvements to Stalker VXE aimed at scaling its mission capabilities for the future. For further information see the IDTechEx report on Drone Market and Industries 2021-2041.
Stalker VXE's class-leading endurance, broad operating envelope, modular payload compliance, vertical take-off and landing capability, and open system architecture allow it to execute diverse and demanding missions while maintaining a small operational footprint and crew.
To achieve this world record flight time, Lockheed Martin partnered with:
- Edge Autonomy as a developer and original equipment manufacturer of high-performance unmanned systems, including the Stalker VXE aircraft.
- Adaptive Energy to develop cutting-edge fuel cell technology, investing in advanced power sources and testing innovative implementation techniques for field operations.
- Composite Technology Development Inc. to build a light-weight external wing tank.
- Precision Integrated Programs to provide flight operations support.
- Clovis Area Modelers to provide FAI official contest directors to continuously monitor and adjudicate the world record flight for ratification.
Source and top image: Lockheed Martin