|The Orion UAS in flight. Photo: Aurora Flight Sciences
[Avionics Today 01-28-2015] Aurora Flight Sciences has filed for an official world endurance record following an 80-hour flight by its Orion Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). Observers from the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) were on hand to inspect the aircraft and witness the takeoff on Dec. 5, 2014, supervise the entire flight and witness the landing on Dec. 8.
Orion, which is managed by the United States Air Force, is the result of the Ultra Long Endurance program that began in 2007, sponsored by the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL). The long-endurance UAS made its first flight on Aug. 23, 2013; the record attempt was the 18th flight in the test effort.
"The need for persistent surveillance in areas far from U.S. bases is a geo-political fact of life," said Aurora CEO John Langford. "Orion can do this at operational costs significantly below any competing system. There are also important applications for this airplane in areas such as communications relay and Internet service provision."
The flight was conducted at altitudes between 4,500 and 10,000 feet above mean sea level. Orion landed with approximately 1,700 pounds of fuel remaining, with endurance limited by range availability.