Military, Unmanned

US Air Force Keeps Orion Drone Development Going in its 12th Year

By S.L. Fuller | January 4, 2018

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Photo courtesy of Aurora Flight Sciences

The U.S. Air Force wants to continue development of its Orion unmanned aircraft system (UAS). It has awarded Aurora Flight Sciences a new, $48 million contract, the new Boeing company said.

Orion is a twin-engine, high performance drone. According to Aurora, it can stay aloft for more than 100 hours at a time with payloads in excess of 1,000 pounds.

Development of the Orion started in 2006, with its first flight August 2013. In December the following year, Orion established the current UAS world endurance record with an 80-hour, 2-minute and 52-second flight.

Aurora said Orion combines a highly efficient aerodynamic design with lightweight construction and efficient heavy fuel propulsion. This would give it “three times” the endurance range of current intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, the company said. A single Orion can perform two days of persistent surveillance when operating from bases over 3,000 miles away from the target of interest.

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