The Prius of Planes Could One Day Replace Helicopters and Jump Jets

Posted by K R on

Getting an aircraft to launch and land vertically is not difficult. Getting one to launch vertically and then complete a long-endurance flight, however, is an entirely different bag of cats. But a team from NASA's Langley Research Center believe that they've developed a flight system that can do both tasks equally well. The secret: hybrid power. The GL-10 "Greased Lightning" is a small-scale tilt-wing, tilt-tail, long endurance, VTOL aircraft prototype. A series of nine props mounted on the swiveling wings and tail structure provide lift, while a pair of tiny diesel engines stored in the fuselage run continually to recharge the plane's Li-ion batteries—which provide the electric prop motors with the energy needed to get the whole shebang off the ground. It's much the same premise as the Chevy Volt's operation, except the diesel engines don't ever turn off. This combines the best aspects of both fuel types: the instant torque generated by electric power supplies, melded with the incredible energy density of diesel. Where a purely electric UAV with the same power capacity would only have enough reserves for about a half hour of flight, the GL-10's diesel tanks can—though theoretically at this point—keep it in the air for up to a full day. As Langley's Operational Report on the GL-10 explains: via Gizmodo

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