New vertical takeoff and landing plane unveiled

Unorthodox unmanned aircraft will push the limits of technology to combine plane-like speed and helicopter-like agility.

By - March 4, 2016 Share on LinkedIn
VTOL plane

DARPA has unveiled its new experimental vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) plane, which aims to overcome challenges associated with VTOL aircraft.

Increasing top speed without sacrificing range, efficiency, or the ability to do useful work is one of the main challenges.

DARPA’s VTOL Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) aims to overcome this by combining fixed-wing and rotary-wing technologies.

It is also developing and integrating subsystems to enable improvements in vertical and cruising flight capabilities.

VTOL X-Plane seeks to develop a technology that can:

  • Achieve a top sustained flight speed of 555km/h-740km/h.
  • Raise aircraft hover efficiency from 60% to at least 75%
  • Present a cruise lift-to-drag ratio of at least 10, up from 5-6
  • Carry a useful load of at least 40% of the vehicle’s projected gross weight of 4,500kg-5,400kg.

DARPA has awarded part of the programme for VTOL X-Plane to Aurora Flight Sciences.

Aurora’s design envisions an unmanned aircraft with two large rear wings and two smaller front canards – short winglets mounted near the nose of the aircraft.

A turboshaft engine mounted in the fuselage would provide 3MW (4,000 horsepower) of electrical power, the equivalent of an average commercial wind turbine.

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