The VA001, an unmanned aircraft that looks like a glider but is powered by a diesel engine, successfully flew for 55 hours, 56 minutess non-stop and without re-fueling on Dec. 2, 2016.
The flight took place at New Mexico State University’s Unmanned Air Systems Flight Test Center near Las Cruces International Airport, where the plane was launched by tow at 8:15 am local time on Nov. 30, 2016.
Once in the air, the VA001 climbed to its cruising altitude of 6,500-7,000 feet AMSL and then flew a figure-8 holding pattern for the remainder of the flight.
A typical circuit took 5 minutes, 20 seconds at an average speed of 67 mph.
The VA001, which has a wingspan of 36 feet and is made of carbon fiber, looks like a glider, with long white wings and a short, streamlined body.
The engine is mounted at the front, with a single propeller at the back.The total weight of the plane with fuel was 421.7 pounds. During the flight it carried a 20-pound payload.
No refuelling was allowed during the flight. The aircraft has two fuel tanks, and is designed to fly non-stop, without refueling for more than a week. The record flight was originally planned as a 120-hour mission, but was ended early due to forecast bad weather.
After flying non-stop for nearly two-and-a-half days, the VA001 successfully landed back where it had been launched from. It was then weighed to assess how much fuel it had used.
Over the 56 hours it had consumed 9.7 gallons of fuel. It had covered about 3,749 miles, giving it a fuel economy of 386.46 miles per gallon.
Remarkably, there was enough fuel left onboard to fly a further 10,000 km or 4.5 days, according to FAI officials.
The VA001 is being developed by Vanilla Aircraft, a private company. The ultimate aim of the VA001 project is for the plane to carry a 30-pound payload for 10 days at an altitude of 15,000 feet. Potential applications include surveying and communications.
The world record flight was submitted for a world duration record for combustion-powered unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the 50-500 kg subclass (FAI Class U-1.c Group 1). The record claim was ratified by the FAI on Aug. 23, 2017.
FAI, the World Air Sports Federation, is the world governing body for air sports and for certifying world aviation and space records. The FAI, founded in 1905, is a non-governmental and non-profit organization recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
FAI activities include Aerobatics, Aeromodelling, Airships, Amateur-Built and Experimental Aircraft, Balloons, Drones, Gliding, Hang Gliding, Helicopters, Manpowered Flying, Microlights, Parachuting, Paragliding, Paramotors, Power Flying and all other Aeronautic and Astronautic sporting activities.