Helicopters, whereas highly versatile in their ability to hover and move vertically, lack aerodynamic efficiency in regards to long-distance moves.
Combining the versatility of a chopper with the speed and cruise efficiency of an airplane often leads to compromises and troubles, as proven by the F-35 program and its difficulties incorporating a lift fan into the modern jet design. an all electrical tiltrotor design for an aircraft, however, might prove superior once it involves planning the utility craft of the future.
An approach with their electrical Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) craft.
This version is only a prototype Drone for testing purposes, but future iterations may have real practical value, according to aerospace engineer Bill Fredericks. “It could be used for small package delivery…long endurance surveillance for agriculture, mapping and other applications.” Says Fredericks. He goes on to mention that a scaled-up version for actual human transport is also possible and the idea would be “a great one to four-person size personal air vehicle.”
For a 10-engine craft, not only is the drone quieter than a lawnmower, but it is also quite light-weight. The sleek carbon fiber UAV, named greased Lightning, or GL-10 for short, weighs a portable 24.9 kilograms (55 pounds). the first iterations were way humbler, starting from foam mock-ups to changed hobby heavier-than-air craft kits.
The Great Accomplishment of G-10 was configured successfully.
“We did lose some of the early prototypes to ‘hard landings’ as we learned how to configure the flight control system.” Says aerospace engineer David North. “But we discovered something from each loss and were able to keep moving forward.”
The real accomplishment of the GL-10, however, is that it can successfully reconfigure its wings from vertical hover mode to horizontal wing-borne mode midflight. due to the complicated mechanic’s forces involved, this is no straightforward task from either an engineering or a programming position. nevertheless, the Langley team has managed to translate the wings on 5 separate flights so far.
Their next goal is showing that their tiltrotor style is, in fact, more economical at horizontal motion than a standard helicopter.
The electrical motors also ensure that the tarmac melting heat of jet-based V/STOL craft like the harrier wouldn’t limit NASA Langley’s aircraft to specialty landing zones.
If all goes well, the research conducted with GL-10 and its successors could prove critical to creating drones for everyday use that aren’t only quiet and efficient but could land in a large number of locations.