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NASA develops next-gen UAV, vertical takeoff but cruises like an aircraft

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Researchers at Langley Research Center are working on an electric unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that takes off like a helicopter but can fly efficiently like an aircraft.

The 10 engines “Greased Lighting” (GL-10) is NASA’s next foray into the expanding world of UAVs.  According to researchers, they have successfully tested the UAV’s vertical takeoff and landing capabilities, but are still working on making the prototype cruise like an aircraft.

“During the flight tests we successfully transitioned from hover to wing-borne flight like a conventional airplane then back to over again.  So far we have done this on five flights… Now we’re working on our second goal—to demonstrate that this concept is four times more aerodynamically efficient in cruise than a helicopter,” said aerospace engineer Bill Frederick.

So far, the team has built 12 prototypes, with each iterations increasing in size and complexity.  The latest is a 55-lbs model that has a max take off capacity of 62 lbs.

On an even more ambitious note, the team thinks that the UAV can even be converted into a personal aircraft capable of ferrying 1 to 4 people.

The team will show off their development at this year’s Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International conference in Atlanta on May 4-7.

Source: NASA

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