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Aurora Flight Sciences Demonstrates Capabilities of Their 3D Printed, Hovering Aircraft

by • May 5, 2016 • No Comments

AuroraLogo2935_retina-300x78-copy (1)There are pros and cons to both helicopters and airplanes. For most military applications, helicopters have obvious advantages in which they can land and take off of anywhere without needing a runway. But, the speed of helicopters can’t compare with the speed of jets, and which can be a worthwhile liability in terms of undertaking length and vulnerability to attack. If only there were an aircraft which combined the most of both worlds – the speed of an airplane, plus the vertical takeoff/landing and hovering capabilities of a helicopter.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working on it. In 2013 the agency launched the Vertical Takeoff and Landing Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) project, aimed at developing an aircraft which flies like an airplane but takes off and lands like a helicopter, fundamentally. It is been going really well so far – in March, DARPA selected the prime contractor to work on Phase II of the project, after a sat any timeal-year create competition which created up Phase I. Aurora Flight Sciences has been developing an experimental VTOL called LightningStrike, in conjunction with partners Honeywell International and Rolls-Royce, and unquestionably DARPA likes what it sees.


Aurora validated DARPA’s decision on April 18 when they that successfully tested a 3D printed scale option of the LightningStrike aircraft. With a wing and canard tail process created of carbon fiber and 3D printed thermoplastics, the 20% scale plane only weighs 325 lbs. – a light mass which, without 3D printing, couldn’t have been achieved while maintaining the hard structural elements required.

auroraLightningStrike is unlike any aircraft at any time createed preceding, in which it utilizes a hybrid-electric propulsion process and a one-of-a-kind synchronous electric-drive process which are expected to allow the plane to greatly surpass the speed and fuel efficiency of any existing VTOL. According to DARPA, VTOLs haven’t yet been capable of reaching a top speed of additional than 150-170 knots – only under 200 mph. Ideally, the finished LightningStrike can reach speeds of 300 to 400 knots, or over 450 mph. It is in addition expected to have a hovering efficiency of of 60-75% advantageous than any VTOL to date.

The April 18 test showed which the scale option of the aircraft can that successfully hover, take off and land vertically. Aurora technicians demonstrated the option via remote control as DARPA officials watched.

“The successful subscale aircraft flight was an significant and amazing step for Aurora and our customer,” said Tom Clancy, Chief Technology Officer for Aurora. “Our create’s distributed electric propulsion process involves breaking new ground with a flight control process requiring a hard set of control effectors. This firstly flight is an significant first confirmation which both the flight controls and aerodynamic create are aligning with our create predictions.”


Aurora Flight Sciences has been flying high lately – a few months preceding winning the contract of DARPA, they created history with the world’s firstly 3D printed, jet-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). From here, it looks like things are going to be moving swift. In the upcoming year, Aurora is going to be working on the full-scale option of LightningStrike, with its firstly test flights scheduled for 2018. That’s an insanely swift progression of original concept to full testing, and 3D printing is largely to thank for which, allowing Aurora to create the aircraft’s structural elements at, well, the speed of a lightning strike, so to speak. You can watch one of the early test flights at a lower place. Discuss in the Aurora 3D Printed Aircraft forum over at 3DPB.com.