Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works demonstrated the expanded endurance capabilities of a specially configured Lockheed Martin Stalker VXE unmanned aerial system (UAS) through a world record endurance flight at the Santa Margarita Ranch in California.
The aircraft was configured with an external, wing-mounted fuel tank for the 39 hours, 17 minutes, and 7 seconds flight – a new record in the Groups 2 unmanned aerial system category (5 to 25 kilogram). The system can also be modified to be battery-powered, providing a flight time of about four hours.
The latest Stalker XVS is portable and packed away in two large plastic cases. It uses electric propulsion powered by a propane-fueled Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC), providing an endurance of eight hours with a 2.5 kg payload. In addition, the aircraft is equipped with tilt, zoom electro-optical, infrared cameras and has the ability to identify and track targets in all weather conditions, both during the day and at night.
The Stalker can achieve a maximum speed of 58 mph (93 km/h), a cruise speed of 36 mph (58 km/h), and can reach a top altitude of 12,000 ft (3,658 meters). The battery-powered Stalker can fly for up to 138 miles (222 km), while a fuel cell-powered Stalker has a range of 269 miles (433 km/h).
The data collected during the flight provide viable insight for improvements to Stalker VXE aimed at scaling its mission capabilities for the future. The flight has been submitted to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the World Air Sports Federation, and it’s currently awaiting certification.