World record! Retrofitted with a wing-mounted fuel tank, the American unmanned vehicle completes a breathtaking 39-hour flight

Lockheed Martin announced on April 11, 2022 that its specially configured Stalker VXE unmanned aerial system (UAS) achieved a world record of nearly 39 flight hours on February 18, 2022 at Santa Margarita Ranch in California, “demonstrating the most great endurance capabilities of the system.

Stalker, which could also be powered by a heavy-duty solid oxide fuel cell, can run on propane for over 8 hours. However, in the latest test, the aircraft managed to push its limits, staying aloft for 39 hours, 17 minutes and 7 seconds, setting a new record in the Group 2 category (which includes UAS that weigh between 11 and 55 pounds). / 5 and 25 kilograms).

For this record flight, a production Stalker VXE was fitted with an external wing-mounted fuel tank. Stalker VXE’s mission capabilities will be scaled in the future, and the flight yielded important insights for future upgrades, according to the press release released by Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin’s Stalker VXE recently achieved a world record flight time of 39 hours. -Twitter

The Stalker VXE’s industry-leading endurance, wide operating envelope, modular payload compliance, vertical takeoff and landing capability, and open system design, the company says, allow it to perform a variety of missions with a tiny operational footprint and crew. .

The flight was submitted for certification to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the world’s sanctioning body for aviation records, through its US subsidiary, the National Aeronautic Association.

Lockheed Martin UAS Stalker

Stalker is a Group 2 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) that provides long-duration imaging capability in a multitude of contested environments. The drone’s mission is to assist fighters with information, surveillance and reconnaissance data. It is also capable of border patrol and other special activities.

Since 2006, the basic Stalker UAS has been in service with the US Special Operations Command (USSOC).

According to the company, this drone is used by special forces around the world. However, the company’s website makes no mention of which countries are currently using this drone.

The drone participated in Lockheed Martin’s Collaborative Unmanned Systems Demonstration, which used a UAS traffic management prototype to integrate unmanned systems into the National Airspace System (NAS). By interacting with air traffic control, it ensures the safe operation of air vehicles.

In November 2015, Stalker transmitted geolocation and data to the Kaman K-MAX unmanned cargo helicopter deployed in a firefighting mission during the demonstration in Rome. In October 2015, the UAS was exhibited at AUSA 2015 (Annual Meeting and Exposition) in Washington.

It has a wingspan of 18 feet (4.8 meters) and can take off and land in harsh conditions, giving operators greater operational mission flexibility. The aircraft has a payload capacity of 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg).

Underneath the UAV fuselage is a modular electro-optical, infrared, and low-light imaging camera that provides continuous monitoring and high-definition images day and night. The imager’s pan, tilt, and zoom (PTZ) head allows it to cover a larger area. It also has a laser illuminator and a payload bay that can be jettisoned.

Stalker uses propane to run for over 8 hours and can be powered by a heavy duty solid oxide fuel cell if needed. The fuel cell technology was developed through a collaborative project coordinated by Lockheed Martin and Adaptive Materials (now part of Ultra Electronics Holdings) and funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The nose of the drone is also equipped with a two-bladed propeller.

Stalker UAS: high intelligence |  Lockheed Martin
Stalker UAS: high intelligence | Lockheed Martin

It has a top speed of 58 miles per hour (93 kilometers per hour) and can reach altitudes of 12,000 feet (3,658 meters). The system can also be customized to run on batteries to meet mission requirements. This gives him a working time of four hours. In addition, it is able to operate in any type of environment.

The unmanned aircraft and its payloads are monitored and controlled remotely via a laptop-based ground control station, which also serves as a user interface for the operator. The ground station receives and processes the images and data taken by the vehicle.