The U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman Corp. recently set a flight endurance record for the MQ-8C Fire Scout, an unmanned helicopter that the company's website says is "ready to deploy." In a planned 150-nm flight from Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, Calif., the MQ-8C achieved 11 hr, ending with more than an hour of fuel in reserve. Northrop Grumman said that with adjustments, it hopes the drone will average "12 hours of total endurance on a standard day." The company added that increased endurance will help the MQ-8C to better perform its primary ISR mission for the Navy. The MQ-8C is the evolution of the MQ-8B, a drone based off of the Bell 407 airframe that has already deployed aboard ships and to Afghanistan. The MQ-8C, designed with a larger payload and the ability to autonomously take off and land from shipboard or ground-based landing zones, was delivered to the Navy in Dec. 2014 and made its first takeoff and landing at sea from the guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham on Dec. 16.
MQ-8C Fire Scout demonstrates a long-range, long-endurance flight as part of a capability-based test at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, Calif. Photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman