A team of scientists at NASA's Langley Research Center has developed a concept of a battery-powered plane that has 10 motors and can take off like a helicopter and fly efficiently like an aircraft.
5/21/15 5:00 am chumakdenis 1
It seems that Google is getting more and more involved into global cooperation. Recently we heard the news about Google’s project aimed to improve battery technology and now we have another project from them.
What do we have here?
A team at NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a full-scale concept of a battery-powered plane that has 10 engines and can take off like a helicopter and flies efficiently like an aircraft.
The prototype, called Greased Lightning (GL-10), is currently in the design and testing phase. The initial thought was to develop a 20-foot wingspan (6.1 meters) aircraft powered by hybrid engines, but the team started with smaller versions for testing, built by rapid prototyping.
Just imagine a battery-powered plane that has 10 engines and can take off like a helicopter and fly efficiently like an aircraft. Pretty cool, huh?
"We built 12 prototypes, starting with simple five-pound (2.3 kilograms) foam models and then 25-pound (11.3 kilograms), highly modified fiberglass hobby airplane kits all leading up to the 55-pound (24.9 kilograms), high quality, carbon fiber GL-10 built in our model shop by expert technicians, " said aerospace engineer David North.
"Each prototype helped us answer technical questions while keeping costs down. We did lose some of the early prototypes to hard landings as we learned how to configure the flight control system. But we discovered something from each loss and were able to keep moving forward."
The GL-10 had already passed hover and other tests with flying colors.
But still, the first time is always the hardest– there are some problems with transition from vertical to forward wing-borne flight.
The remotely piloted plane has a 10-foot wingspan (3.05 meters), eight electric motors on the wings, two electric motors on the tail and weighs a maximum of 62 pounds (28.1 kilograms) at take off.
As engineers, who have designed full-scale vertical take off and landing tilt rotors such as the V-22 Osprey, will tell you - “that is no easy task because of the challenging flight aerodynamics”.
"During the flight tests we successfully transitioned from hover to wing-borne flight like a conventional airplane then back to hover again. So far we have done this on five flights," said Fredericks. "We were ecstatic. Now we're working on our second goal - to demonstrate that this concept is four times more aerodynamically efficient in cruise than a helicopter."
A feedback about GL-10 from the pilot
Zack Johns is the GL-10's primary pilot. He says flying the ten-engine aircraft has its ups and downs, but it really flies more like a three-engine plane from a control perspective.
"All four engines on the left wing are given the same command," said Johns. "The four engines on the right wing also work in concert. Then the two on the tail receive the same command."
One other advantage to the GL-10 besides its versatile vertical take off and landing ability is its noise or lack of it. "It's pretty quiet," said Fredericks. "The current prototype is quieter than a neighbor mowing the law with a gas-powered motor."
Usefulness of the project
The team is looking at the idea initially as a potential unmanned aerial vehicle.
"We have a couple of options that this concept could be good for," said Bill Fredericks, aerospace engineer. "It could be used for small package delivery or vertical take off and landing, long endurance surveillance for agriculture, mapping and other applications."
Plans for the future
The next step in the GL-10 test program is to try to confirm its aerodynamic efficiency and improve existing version of remotely piloted plane.
Well, good luck with that.
Google, we’ll be eagerly waiting. Don’t disappoint us.