Vanilla Aircraft has carried out the first flight of its long-endurance VA001 unmanned air vehicle, completing a NASA-funded research and development phase.

It took off carrying an 18lb simulated payload and enough fuel to carry out a 24h flight, and reached altitudes of 6,000ft in national airspace.

Under Phase I and II of a NASA Earth Sciences Division Small Business Innovation Research grant, the aircraft was designed, developed and tested, and now the company is looking towards the next stage: a 10-day target endurance at altitudes of 20,000ft.

It flew under a Certificate of Authorization that was granted by the US FAA to the New Mexico State University, demonstrating all target parameters for a first flight.

Vanilla VA001 UAV - Vanilla

Vanilla VA001 UAV - Vanilla

Vanilla Aircraft

The UAV uses a modified non-aviation heavy fuel engine, and underwent multiple two-week propulsion skakedown runs in the lead up to the first flight.

The maximum take-off weight of the vehicle is 600lb; it has an empty weight of 250lb, plus the capacity for a 30lb payload and some 320lb of heavy fuel.

Now the first flight has been completed, the flight envelope will be expanded alongside an undisclosed new customer.

Vanilla says that it aims to achieve “multi-day ops” in the next 120 days of testing, starting at flights of multiple hours, then leading up to multiple days.