The jet-powered XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator drone has returned to the air three months after being damaged in a landing mishap. On January 23, the unmanned aircraft being developed by the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Kratos Defense & Security Solutions completed its fourth flight test at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
The fourth in a planned schedule of five flights, the most recent test was designed to push the performance envelope of the Valkyrie. In particular, the flight took the drone to its highest altitude yet as engineers collected information on the vehicle’s response to temperature and vibrations under conditions very similar to those found in operational flight. According to AFRL, all of the test objectives were met.
On October 9, 2019, the Valkyrie was grounded after a landing mishap at the end of a 90-minute flight. A safety Investigation Board found that the problem was with the drone’s provisional flight test recovery system and high surface winds during the final descent. Following the board’s recommendations, the XQ-58A was once again cleared for flight.
The Valkyrie program is intended to demonstrate that is it possible to develop a combat drone from contract award to first flight in only 2.5 years, and with significantly lower building and operating costs.