Vanilla Aircraft, which designed and built the VA001 ultra-endurance UAS has now become Vanilla Unmanned, a joint venture between Platform Aerospace and an unnamed partner. The joint venture, named Vanilla Unmanned, will leverage Platform Aerospace’s prototyping and integration experience and the partner’s experience with aerospace and defense electronics to further develop the record-setting VA001, creating a disruptive persistent aerial solution for both military and commercial applications.

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Rear Adm. Timothy Heely (USN-ret), president of Vanilla Unmanned and former AUVSI board member states “Vanilla Unmanned is excited to continue innovating our UAS to support current and emerging operational requirements. The combined capabilities of Platform and partner will accelerate integration of best-in-class sensors and payloads and significantly reduce the cost and risk of transition to full-rate production.”

“We understand the disruptive potential of this UAS. With land-based and offshore marine traffic growing and manned assets being tasked at ever increasing levels, Vanilla Unmanned will bring a cost effective, persistent capability to our nation’s defense at exactly the right time.” says David Miller, vice president of the new Vanilla Unmanned.

The VA001 is a Group 3 UAS intended to be payload and mission agnostic, or “vanilla.” It’s capable of flying continuously for up to 10 days, providing persistent surveillance and reconnaissance. It was also the first winner of the AUVSI “Startup Showdown” in New Orleans in 2016, beating out 14 other competitors to take the top prize.


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Rear Adm. Timothy Heely (USN-ret)

Tim Heely has 40 years of professional experience with government and industry during his careers as a US Naval Aviator and in business.  

His positions in the U.S. Navy included Program Executive Officer for Naval Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons (PEO(U&W)) where he was responsible for the development, test, acquisition and support of all Navy and Marine Corps unmanned air vehicles and strike weapons, Chief Engineer for the Naval Air Systems Command,  Program Manager for Naval Undergraduate Flight Training Systems, Personnel Manager at the Navy Bureau of Personnel, and Commanding Officer of VFA-192 flying combat missions in the Gulf War.

He has had industry experience in leading a profit and loss organization as President of SPARTA, a 1200 person $380M company providing technical services and solutions to US National Intelligence agencies and to the Missile Defense Agency, as well as composite manufacturing.  He then led the Washington DC office of a British owned defense company (Executive Vice President, Cobham North America) where he also provided corporate strategy in unmanned systems (air and ground). Heely was CEO of Vanilla Aircraft, llc, a small business building and operating Ultra-long Endurance Unmanned Air Vehicles headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, and is Chairman of Sentinel Robotic Services, a small Veteran Owned business providing high end services to the civil, defense and intelligence markets with specific emphasis on unmanned applications.

He received a Bachelor of Science Degree from the U.S. Naval Academy in American Political Affairs and a Master of Science Degree from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Aeronautical Engineering (Avionics).

He has served as Board Member and head of the Advocacy Committee for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and is currently President of the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance.

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Dave Miller

Dave Miller has 38 years of professional experience with military, government and industry during his careers as a Vice President of engineering and senior electrical engineer.  

He is responsible for all technical areas of the Vanilla Aircraft and brings his vast experience to the table in overseeing product design, test equipment design, test operations, configuration management and engineering laboratory management.  In the past, under his leadership, he developed various systems for unmanned air vehicles, including power distribution units, sensors, and electronic assemblies.  Other projects include two generations of fire control computer systems for Army ground vehicle (howitzer), electronic payload interface boxes for ground-based surveillance systems, shipboard interface between GPS and fire control for Harpoon missile system and remote control for crypto communications system used in Navy aircraft using a custom ASIC to name a few.  He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University.