AI News, DARPA's Newest X-Plane Concepts Are All Robots
DARPA's Newest X-Plane Concepts Are All Robots
Yesterday, DARPA announced the four companies that'll be competing to develop a new experimental aircraft that combines the efficiency of an airplane with the versatility of a helicopter.
in a contest based on speed, efficiency, and payload, including a human pilot would be a significant disadvantage: humans are fragile and require a lot of maintenance, and it's becoming increasingly arguable that a human in an aircraft has the potential to be more of a liability than an asset, at least in some cases, which may include (say) cargo delivery into dangerous areas.
“The proposals we’ve chosen aim to create new technologies and incorporate existing ones that VTOL designs so far have not succeeded in developing.
VTOL X-Plane Program Takes Off
For generations, new designs for vertical takeoff and landing aircraft have remained unable to increase top speed without sacrificing range, efficiency or the ability to do useful work.
DARPA’s VTOL Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) program seeks to overcome these challenges through innovative cross-pollination between the fixed-wing and rotary-wing worlds, to enable radical improvements in vertical and cruise flight capabilities.
VTOL X-Plane seeks to develop a technology demonstrator that could: All four winning companies proposed designs for unmanned vehicles, but the technologies that VTOL X-Plane intends to develop could apply equally well to manned aircraft.
DARPA Completes Testing of Subscale Hybrid Electric VTOL X-Plane
DARPA has completed flight-testing of a sub-scale version of a novel aircraft design as part of its vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) X-Plane program, and is proceeding with work to develop a full-scale version of the groundbreaking plane.
Developed and fabricated by Aurora Flight Sciences, the revolutionary aircraft includes 24 electric ducted fans—18 distributed within the main wings and six in the canard surfaces, with the wings and canards tilting upwards for vertical flight and rotating to a horizontal position for wing-borne flight.
Subscale testing began on the VTOL program in March of 2016 and the first phase of testing ended after six flights with demonstration of auto take off, sustained hover, directional and translational control (including lateral and rearward flight), waypoint navigation, and auto landing.
In addition to serving as a flight controls systems developmental aircraft, the VTOL subscale demonstrator advanced a number of technologies such as 3D-printed plastics for flight structures and aerodynamic surfaces as well as embedded distributed electric propulsion.
The XV-24A will weigh 12,000 pounds compared to the demonstrator’s 322 pounds, and will aim to demonstrate specific performance objectives stipulated by DARPA: flight speeds in excess of 300 knots, full hover and vertical flight capabilities, and—relative to helicopters—a 25 percent improvement in hovering efficiency and 50 percent reduction in system drag losses during cruise.
Darpa X-plane to radically rethink vertical takeoff
Imagine an aircraft that combines a helicopter’s ability to takeoff and land from almost anywhere, with the speed and range of a fixed wing aircraft.
In fact, so many efforts have been made to get a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft off the ground that even advocates of the concept often refer to the “wheel of misfortune,”
This week, the agency announced a new X-plane program, which will seek to build a prototype aircraft to demonstrate a better VTOL design.
This time, rather than tweaking past designs, we are looking for true cross-pollinations of designs and technologies from the fixed-wing and rotary-wing worlds.”
VTOL concepts over the years have included various ingenious solutions for powering and lifting these craft including tilt-rotor aircraft, tilt-wing, vectored thrust, tilt prop and tilt jets, just to name a few.
Many of the schemes, which combine rotors and wings, or involve tilting some component of the aircraft, make for technically elaborate designs that are often impractical to operate and fly.
It has long been the tradition of the agency to tackle significant engineering challenges, such as robotics and hypersonics, multiple times until something works.
Moreover, the appeal of a VTOL aircraft is simple: helicopters offer the unique ability to take-off and land without an airstrip, providing the military with access to places where fixed-wing aircraft can’t land, while fixed-wing aircraft offer greater speed and range.
Richard Hallion, a former senior advisor to the US Air Force and aerospace historian says there have been improvements in established technology over the years - composite materials, fly-by-wire flight controls, and better propulsion - which may make past VTOL concepts now feasible.
No one denies that the road to VTOL aircraft is littered with the corpses of past aircraft, including several Darpa programs, but proponents argue that that’s the whole point of the new initiative.
Mark Moore, a Nasa engineer who has specialized in VTOL aircraft for three decades, says he’s excited about Darpa’s plans, but cautions that the example included in a graphic announcing the programme, showing a fan-in-wing design, is not likely the solution.
“If you start with a clean sheet and ask: what is the art of the possible, and throw open the door to unconventional approaches, you get a lot more creative ideas, and a lot more innovative ideas,”
- On Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) Concept Video
DARPA's new Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program seeks to develop technologies that would enable cooperative inspection and servicing in geosynchronous Earth orbit...
ALASA Concept Video
DARPA's Airborne Launch Assist Space Access program (ALASA) seeks to propel 100-pound satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO) within 24 hours of call-up, all for less than $1 million per launch....
UAVforge, Crowdsourcing for UAV Innovation
This video is a conceptual depiction of the DARPA UAVForge competition objective. UAVForge will use crowd sourcing to design and demonstrate a new generation of small UAVs, culminating in...
V-Bat Autonomous Transition
V-Bat VTOL UAV performing an autonomous transition from hover to 75 mph airspeed and back to hover again.
Rare Footage RYAN XV-5A Vertifan VTOL Test Flights (Part 2)
This is part 2 of some very rare test flight footage from the 1960's of the experimental V/STOL GE-Ryan XV-5A Vertifan which was built for the U.S. Army. The Ryan XV-5 Vertifan was a jet powered...
VTOL Learning to Hover
Intial GPS controlled hover test, still tuning control gains. Joystick moves the hover set-point and throttle is manually controlled.
Electric Powered VTOL Tailsitter UAV. This prototype version carries 1 lb payload and can hover for 12 minutes or cruise for 1 hour at 40 kts on the wing. This video shows initial flight tests...
e-VBat Hover Test
Electric powered V-Bat VTOL Tailsitter UAV hover test. Duration (wing borne flight ) =1hr, Hover duration = 15 minutes. This is a prototype version, the production version will be fully autonomou...
The Future Huge Armored Amphibious Transport Vehicle of US Army: The UHAC
The Ultra Heavy-Lift Amphibious is a vehicle that can travel on land and water. On the main military use, wheeled vehicles are often replaced by vehicles on air cushion called hovercraft ,...