Lockheed Martin Stalker XVE drone claims world endurance record
Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works advanced development programs division has set a new world flight endurance record for a Group 2 (5 to <25 kg (11 to <55 lb)) drone after the company's Stalker VXE remained aloft for 39 hours, 17 minutes, and seven seconds.
Because drones don't have pilots aboard and can carry out many of their functions autonomously, endurance is a very desirable commodity – not just in the large jet-powered units, but also in the smaller, portable craft like the Stalker XVE.
Originally developed in 2006, Lockheed's Stalker line of UAVs has undergone a series of upgrades over the years to improve their endurance and other capabilities. The latest iteration, the Stalker XVE, is portable and packs away in two large plastic cases. It can be assembled by one person and needs only one operator because of its autonomous avionics.
The Stalker XVE is open architecture and configurable to suit mission requirements. Weighing only about 44 lb (20 kg), it uses electric propulsion powered by either a propane-fueled Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) providing an endurance of eight hours with a 5.5 lb (2.5 kg) payload, or by a battery providing a flight time of about four hours.
Maximum speed is 58 mph (93 km/h) and it can reach a top altitude of 12,000 ft (3,658 m). The Stalker VXE can be launched by bungee, rail, or VTOL.
For the February 18, 2022 flight at the Santa Margarita Ranch in California, the production Stalker XVE was configured for endurance using the SOFC and an additional propane fuel tank installed under the starboard wing. No details have been released as to other details of the configuration.
At the moment, the world record is unofficial, but Lockheed has applied to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) through its US affiliate, the National Aeronautic Association, for certification. The hope is that the endurance flight, which is almost five times longer than the normal Stalker flight, will help in scaling up the capabilities of the drone.
Source: Lockheed Martin