Our Journey to Pendleton

If you’ve been following along with our blog and social media, you’re aware of the Pendleton Hangar, a brand new 9,600 square foot hangar at the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport. The hangar opened back in June and several members of our team attended the ribbon cutting. Since then, the specifically configured hangar awaited its first official occupant — Vahana.

We’re excited to report that the wait is over — our full-scale aircraft recently made its way north in preparation for flight testing. This required robust planning, long hours, and graceful execution by the team.

Vinyl wrapping at our Santa Clara, CA facilities.

Shortly before Vahana embarked on its trip to Pendleton, it received the final touches that made the vision seen by so many in artist renderings a reality. The vinyl wraps that provide its recognizable, colorful design were applied at our headquarters, The Nest, before the aircraft’s journey to Oregon.

Vahana Team

Farewells are required before any big journey, so naturally the team wanted to say goodbye. While it was hard to seemingly part with something that had been such a big part of everyday life at our headquarters, we knew Vahana leaving The Nest meant a new phase of our journey: its first full-scale test flights.

Empty Nesters!

It was no easy feat for our bird to leave The Nest, but many hands make light work. Our team of about ten people worked tirelessly alongside professional riggers to prepare the aircraft for shipment along with all the tools, equipment, and gear needed for operations at the range. In parallel with the riggers, the integration and test team members drove our support trailer containing motors and propellers, some of the last items to be integrated, up to Oregon themselves.

Fuselage making the last quarter mile journey.

Once the caravan arrived in Oregon, the aircraft fuselage was unloaded from the truck at The Pendleton Unmanned Aerial Systems Range Mission Control and Innovation Center. The time had come for the first real-world test of Vahana’s landing gear handling and towing provisions. The aircraft was carefully towed along the quarter mile journey from the range’s main loading dock to its new home. In the photo above you can see Vahana engineers following along to make sure the fuselage made the last leg of the journey unscathed!

Re-assembled Vahana.

Vahana Aircraft Integration and Test Lead Peter Kalogiannis and team installing the motors.

Once the components had found their way inside the hangar, the integration and test team quickly set about reassembling the vehicle. As Vahana was specifically designed to support rapid disassembly and re-assembly, it took less than a day for the aircraft to be put back together (and we’re confident we’ll get faster now that we’ve done it once!). With this reassembly complete the team took part in another major milestone: installing the high voltage power system and the motors that will lift Vahana into its first test flights.

Control room.

The above picture provides a view into Vahana’s mobile command center, a customized trailer and whose portability allows for repositioning as needed for flight testing. At the time that this photo was taken, the flight test team demonstrated their first end-to-end flight test simulation using a combination of real and simulated data. These types of simulations help the team verify certain aspects of the avionics, software, and communications, while allowing them refine displays for the operators. We were thrilled to welcome A3 CEO, Rodin Lyasoff (wearing yellow pants), to take part in the demonstration.

Looking good in its new home!

Completing the move to Pendleton was an extensive process, but was yet another monumental step in our journey toward first flight. Vahana is happily settled in its new home and receives careful attention from the Vahana team as we set our eyes on the Oregon skies for our first flight.

- Zach Lovering