DARPA completes testing hybrid VTOL X-Plane

By Ryan Maass   |   April 5, 2017 at 11:04 AM
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April 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has completed a round of testing for its vertical takeoff and landing X-Plane program.

The agency began testing for the program in March 2016 using sub-scale aircraft developed and fabricated by Aurora Flight Sciences. The platform is comprised of 24 electric ducted fans, 18 of which are distributed within the main wings. The remaining six are placed in the canard surfaces.

DARPA officials said the successful trials bring the agency closer to presenting a vertical takeoff and landing craft able to fly faster than existing hover-capable craft.

"The aircraft exhibited exceptional flight characteristics, with no loss in altitude even as it transitioned from vertical to horizontal flight. It also demonstrated aerodynamic effectiveness of the distributed propulsive system," DARPA program manager Ashish Bagai said in a press release.

Following the trials, developers will produce full-scale aircraft for the X-Plane program. In addition to a larger size, DARPA says the new variants will feature a few additions and improvements. Modifications will include a triple-redundant flight control system and a hybrid turboshaft engine.

"The VTOL demonstrator was designed specifically to test the aerodynamic design of the aircraft, validate flight dynamics, and develop the flight and mission-systems controls for application to the full-scale vehicle," Bagai added.

The full-scale aircraft, dubbed the XV-24A, will weigh roughly 12,000 pounds and fly at speeds of over 300 knots. The demonstrators recently tested weighed 322 pounds.

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