Aurora flies sub-scale demonstrator of experimental plane

A sub-scale demonstrator vehicle of an experimental plane for the U.S. military has been flight tested.
By Richard Tomkins   |   April 19, 2016 at 3:41 PM
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MANASSAS, Va., April 19 (UPI) -- A sub-scale demonstrator of a vertical take-off and landing experimental plane has been successfully flown by Aurora Flight Sciences.

The VTOL LightningStrike experimental plane, or VTOL X-Plane, is being developed by Aurora for the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Aurora said the sub-scale demonstrator was tested to validate its aerodynamic design and flight control systems. It was conducted recently at a U.S. military installation and the SVD met the risk reduction requirements of DARPA.

"The successful sub-scale aircraft flight was an important and exciting step for Aurora and our customer," said Tom Clancy, Aurora's chief technology officer. "Our design's distributed electric propulsion system involves breaking new ground with a flight control system requiring a complex set of control effectors. This first flight is an important, initial confirmation that both the flight controls and aerodynamic design are aligning with our design predictions."

The sub-scale demonstrator weighs 325 pounds and is a 20 percent scale flight model of the full scale demonstrator Aurora will build within the next two years.

The SVD's wing and canard are made of carbon fiber materials and 3D-printed FDM plastics.

The demonstrator's unmanned take-off, hover and landing was controlled by Aurora personnel located in a nearby ground control station.

The X-Plane is expected to have a sustained flight speed of 300-400 knots and a hover efficiency that is 60 percent to 75 percent greater than current VTOL aircraft.

The aircraft will be powered by hybrid-electric propulsion using an innovative synchronous electric-drive system.

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