Drone Project Lacks Pentagon Orders Needed to Stay Aloft

A Virginia contractor is waging a difficult campaign to provide the Pentagon a different type of surveillance drone, featuring propellers on the wings and unmatched endurance.

Aurora Flight Sciences Corp., of Manassas, Va., has spent five years working on the lumbering Orion—with two engines producing a normal cruising speed below 90 miles an hour—and last year the drone won the world flight-endurance record for an unmanned aircraft by staying aloft for 80 hours.

A 132-foot wingspan and lightweight construction mean Orion, developed with 50% Pentagon funding, can fly more than 1,500 miles, spend nearly three days circling over a designated area, and still have enough fuel to return to base.

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