Lockheed Martin announced this week that a modified Stalker VXE unmanned aerial system (UAS/drone) completed a record-setting endurance flight on Feb. 18, 2022. According to the company, the aircraft logged a total flight time of 39 hours, 17 minutes and 7 seconds, which, once certified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), would establish a new endurance record in the 5 to <25-kilogram (11 to <55 pound) category. For the record attempt, a production Stalker VXE was outfitted with an external, wing-mounted fuel tank.
“The flight provided valuable insight for improvements to Stalker VXE aimed at scaling its mission capabilities for the future,” Lockheed Martin said. “Stalker VXE’s class-leading endurance, broad operating envelope, modular payload compliance, vertical take-off and landing capability, and open system architecture allow it to execute diverse and demanding missions while maintaining a small operational footprint and crew.”
To launch the record flight, Lockheed Martin partnered with companies including Edge Autonomy, Adaptive Energy, Composite Technology Development Inc., Precision Integrated Programs and Clovis Area Modelers. Powered by a propane-fueled solid oxide fuel cell paired with a rechargeable hybrid battery, the production version of the Stalker VXE UAS has a wingspan of 16 feet, top speed of 58 mph and endurance of more than 8 hours. It can carry a maximum payload of 5.5 pounds and reach altitudes of up to 12,000 feet.