A NASA-backed startup has set a new record for fuel-powered autonomous flight.
The VA001 plane, with its 36-foot wingspan, was developed by ‘five-person’ Virginian startup, Vanilla Aircraft, which said the planned five day plus flight was the ‘longest for a fuel-powered, unmanned aircraft’. Entering the history books, after landing at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, the plane was built with help from NASA’s Small Business Innovative Research program.
Designed to function at 15,000 feet for up to 10 days, the VA001 could be used to carry out a range of tasks, including ‘agricultural mapping’ and ‘disaster zone imaging’.
On the historic flight, Test Director Jeremy Novara said: “Previous flights had already validated our performance predictions, but this flight really demonstrated the reliability and ease of operation that a low-cost persistent unmanned aircraft can obtain.”