At the annual Aviation Week Laureate Awards ceremony held March 3, 2016, Aurora Flight Sciences’ Orion unmanned aircraft system (UAS) received the 2016 Laureate Award, in the “Innovation” category. For nearly sixty years, Aviation Week’s Laureate Awards have recognized achievements that “embody the spirit of exploration, innovation and vision that inspire others to strive for progress, change and leadership in aviation and aerospace.” In December, 2014, the Orion UAS set the world record for long-endurance flight of an unmanned aircraft with an eighty-hour flight, shattering the previous record of thirty hours set by a Global Hawk UAS.

“Having our work recognized with an Aviation Week Laureate Award is undoubtedly one of the most important milestones in the twenty-six year history of Aurora Flight Sciences,” said Dr. John Langford, chairman and CEO of Aurora. “This award validates the vision and spirit of innovation that embody the Aurora culture. The Orion aircraft achieved what many others have unsuccessfully attempted in the past, and we’re now optimistic that this innovation will move from breaking world records and winning awards to being deployed in support of America’s national security.”

Orion achieves its extraordinary endurance and range by optimizing several critical design parameters that characterize flight vehicle performance — aerodynamic efficiency, propulsive efficiency, structural efficiency and fuel fraction. After the record setting flight of just over eighty hours, the Orion landed with enough fuel on board to have flown an additional sixty hours. In July, 2015, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) confirmed the Orion aircraft set the world record for duration of flight for a remotely controlled UAV. Also in 2015, the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) selected the record-breaking Orion flight as one of the most memorable aviation milestones of 2014.