Boeing breaks UAV world record

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Boeing claims to have broken a world record for the endurance of an unmanned aerial vehicle weighing 500kg to 2,500kg.

Between 14-15 May, Boeing successfully flew its A160T Hummingbird unmanned rotorcraft for 18.7 hours, which it believes is an unofficial world record.

‘This 18-hour endurance flight is the culmination of thousands of hours of systems, ground and flight-testing. The aircraft performed flawlessly, flying un-refuelled longer than any other current unmanned rotorcraft,’ said Jim Martin, programme manager for Boeing Advanced Systems A160T.

During the flight at the US Army's Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, the turbine-powered aircraft carried a 136kg internal payload at altitudes up to 15,000 feet, landing with at least 90 minutes of fuel in reserve.

The 10.6m-long UAV has been designed to eventually fly more than 140 knots with a ceiling of 20,000 to 30,000 feet for more than 20 hours.

‘With its ability to operate autonomously for extremely long durations while carrying heavy payloads, the A160T is perfectly designed for a variety of military missions,’ said Grady Eakin, Boeing Advanced Systems director of business development.

‘The A160T's large internal bays can accommodate multiple sensor payloads, allowing it to simultaneously perform persistent intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition, communications relay, direct attack and other missions all in the same sortie. An externally mounted payload module can deliver heavy supplies or recover high-value assets with great precision.’