Wallops Island – Vanilla aircraft completed a historic flight at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility and the Virginia Space UAS Runway located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. On October 18th Vanilla Aircraft VA001 took off from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility and embarked on a historic long endurance test flight that landed safely more than 5-days later.
The aircraft completed 5.1 days of flight and had 3 days of fuel remaining on board. The significance of this flight is that this is the longest flight for an ultra-long endurance unmanned aircraft system that has the capability of carrying a payload of significant size weight and power that can meet or exceed military and commercial requirements. This project was funded under a contract through Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).
The Vanilla Aircraft VA001 completed the first autonomous flight in February 2015. Since then, each subsequent flight further proved the design of the aircraft and expanded the flight envelop. To date, every test flight has landed safely, without incident.
The aircraft has the capability of carrying payloads up to 50 pounds and 1.1 cubic feet volume and can supply up to 800 watts to the payload bay. The aircraft is powered by an extremely efficient propulsion system and is configured with a pusher prop configuration. Due to the ultra-long endurance that the vanilla aircraft can perform a multitude of missions and the simplicity of design allows for lower maintenance costs which translate into lower operating cost.
The ultra-long endurance capability of this aircraft provides the end-user with a persistent capability for Military and Commercial applications. The aircraft is designed with a payload bay that can support various types of militarized payloads such as Electro-Optical and Infrared imagers, communication nodes, a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), and SIGINT systems, just to name a few. Some commercial application include mapping, emergency 4G cellular networks, airborne internet distribution and many more. This disruptive capability is a shift in the paradigm for long endurance UAS and will bring forth applications that have yet to be conceptualized.
Tim Heely, CEO of Vanilla Aircraft said, “this flight along with the nine preceding flights show this is a viable and reliable technology and brings this transformative capability to reality.” He also said that Vanilla Aircraft plans to start production in the coming months and offer this to users for a multitude of applications.
Instrumental in supporting this historic mission were several organizations to include NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia Space UAS Airfield, and Sentinel Robotic Solutions, LLC.