A California start-up claims to have broken the endurance flight record for small uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), saying its test aircraft remained aloft for three days and surpassing the previous milestone by nearly double.

Kraus Hamdani Aerospace (KHA), which develops all-electric UAVs for defence and commercial applications, said on 2 August that its K1000 Ultra-Long Endurance (ULE) vehicle successfully completed a flight of 75h 53m – establishing a new record in its class.

“The K1000ULE flew through rain, clouds, strong winds and a range of ambient temperatures and atmospheric conditions,” KHA says.

The K1000 is a so-called “pseudo satellite”, designed to provide persistent surveillance and signal re-transmission. The type’s onboard solar panels and fully electric propulsion enable its long-endurance flight capability.

KHA says the recent 75h flight, which took place at the Pendleton UAS test range in Oregon, has established a new world record for uncrewed aircraft in the Group 2 fixed-wing category, which includes UAS ranging from 9.5-25kg (21-55lb) using the Pentagon’s classification system.

However, the World Air Sports Federation, the international body that ratifies aviation records, has not yet confirmed that Kraus Hamdani’s UAV broke the record. The FAI still lists Lockheed Martin’s Stalker VXE as the record holder for endurance flight in the class.

“We have not been informed of any recent record attempt in class U,” the FAI says. The body notes that a claim may still be forthcoming. 

The Stalker VXE completed a 36h 17m non-stop flight in 2022. That feat was accomplished using a specially configured wing-mounted fuel tank.

KHA’s solar-electric approach eschews consumable fuel and allows the company to target what it calls the “perpetual flight” of an orbiting satellite “at a fraction of the cost”.

“The surveillance abilities of the K1000ULE could make satellites redundant,” KHA says. “Without the constraints of an orbit, this UAV offers the benefits of a satellite-like platform with faster deployment and without the associated infrastructure or cost.”

The company appears to be making rapid progress in expanding the endurance threshold of the platform. In November 2022 at the US Army’s Project Convergence series of technology experiments, KHA co-founder Stefan Kraus told FlightGlobal the K1000 had an operational ceiling of 20,000ft and 26h of flight endurance.

Less than a year later, the recent Oregon flight nearly tripled that duration.

In addition to military applications, KHA says the K1000’s record-breaking endurance capability will be relevant to a range of non-defence missions, including disaster response, conservation, agriculture and oil and gas exploration.

Story updated 8/23 to note the World Air Sports Federation has not confirmed the K1000ULE as the new record holder.