US: Long endurance UAS completes first successful flight

כטב"מ VA001

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VA001 Unmanned Aircraft System
VA001 Unmanned Aircraft System

Vanilla Aircraft successfully completed first flight of the VA001 Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). This is, a 36-ft wingspan Ultra-Long Endurance (ULE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), designed to fly continuous missions of up to 10 days.

The aircraft was launched carrying an 18-lb simulated payload and sufficient fuel for a 24-hour flight. Powered by an efficient heavy-fuel engine, the UAS flew autonomously under a Certificate of Authorization (CoA) in the national airspace at altitudes up to 6000 feet before landing, meeting all test objectives.

“Today, the team’s hard work really paid off. The airplane flew beautifully and showed all the performance we expected. This maiden flight test provided validation of the VA001 design and its remarkable capabilities,” stated Neil Boertlein, co-founder and Chief Engineer for the VA001.

Additional flight tests are being planned with Vanilla’s customer to reach the aircraft’s full payload, endurance and altitude capabilities. “In operation, the VA001’s unmatched range and endurance will greatly reduce the operating cost and man-power burden to provide persistent aerial coverage, and enable new missions previously beyond the capabilities of mid-sized UAS,” stated Peter Bale, head of business development and strategy.

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“We are really looking forward to the next phases of this game-changing program,” he added.

The company is also developing other platforms. One of them is the VA002, which is aimed at filling a gap in UAS capability, and designed with direct input from scientists and field researchers. The VA002 features a large, modular, free-stream payload mount. It is ideal for atmospheric sensors as well as for imaging. This model also utilizes a robust airframe and electric propulsion to operate from unimproved terrain into hazardous aerial environments. High cruise and dash speeds also allow for useful operation above windy coastal and mountainous areas.

The VA002 proof-of-concept aircraft completed initial flight testing during the summer of 2011. It is equipped with an airborne particle sensor provided by NASA.


As part of a team lead by Anasphere Inc., Vanilla Aircraft worked to develop a miniature guided dropsonde, an expendable reconnaissance device for atmospheric sampling. The GlideSonde was designed to provide NASA with a reliable and cost-effective means to deploy dropsondes into dangerous environments where few aircraft are able to venture safely. Vanilla’s part of the project consisted of designing and prototyping the airborne platform and conducting glide tests.