Credit: Lockheed Martin Corporation
Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) 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 on Feb. 18, 2022, at the Santa Margarita Ranch in California.
The flight establishes a new record in the Group 2 (5 to <25-kilogram) category with a flight time of 39 hours, 17 minutes and 7 seconds. The flight has been submitted to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the world sanctioning body for aviation records, through its U.S. affiliate, the National Aeronautic Association, for certification.
A production Stalker VXE was modified for this record-setting flight 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.
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 achieve this world record flight time, Lockheed Martin partnered with:
- Edge Autonomy as a developer and original equipment manufacturer of high-performance unmanned systems, including the Stalker VXE aircraft.
- Adaptive Energy to develop cutting-edge fuel cell technology, investing in advanced power sources and testing innovative implementation techniques for field operations.
- Composite Technology Development Inc. to build a light-weight external wing tank.
- Precision Integrated Programs to provide flight operations support.
- Clovis Area Modelers to provide FAI official contest directors to continuously monitor and adjudicate the world record flight for ratification.
More about the Stalker VXE
Stalker is an operationally proven small, silent, Group 2 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) that provides unprecedented long-endurance imaging capability in a variety of contested environments and is in use by Special Forces around the world.
Designed to combine the flexibility of a portable system with the endurance and payload performance of a larger, more costly vehicle, Stalker VXE and XE’s class-leading endurance, broad operating envelope, and open system architecture allow it to execute diverse and demanding missions while maintaining a small operational footprint and crew requirement.
Power & Fuel
Optionally powered by a ruggedized Solid Oxide Fuel Cell, Stalker uses propane to achieve 8+ hours of operation.
To support the needs of the mission, the system can also be easily reconfigured in the field to a battery powered option that provides 4 hours of endurance.
The Stalker VXE Block 30 system was upgraded with a next generation vertical take-off and landing capability to provide users with greater mission flexibility for operations in austere locations around the world.
The Stalker XE Block 25 system can be hand launched from bungee or rail options.
The custom droppable payload compartment allows the user to precisely drop a small payload from the air. A digital backbone allows for rapid deployment of the latest technology, meaning better pictures and more capabilities.
Stabilized pan, tilt, zoom electro-optical, infrared, and low-light cameras with the ability to lock and track targets enables unprecedented imaging capabilities in a small UAS for operations in all weather conditions, day or night.
Stalker VTOL eXtended Endurance (Stalker) By the Numbers
- The Stalker is powered by a ruggedized Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) that uses globally available propane to achieve 8+ hours of operation.
- Max Payload: 5.5 lbs
- Max Takeoff Weight: 48 lbs (battery) 44 lbs. (fuel cell)
- Flight Time: 8+ hrs
- Altitude: Up to 12,000 ft
- Max Speed: 58 mph
- Propulsion: Propane Fuel Cell with Rechargeable Hybrid Battery or Dual Rechargeable Batteries
- Launch: Vertical Takeoff and Landing
- Wingspan: 16 ft
- Operators: 1 to 2
Source/Credit: Lockheed Martin Corporation