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DARPA unveils LightningStrike VTOL X-Plane, its new unmanned vertical take-off aircraft

Published 07/03/2016

The US military technology agency DARPA has released a video of the LightningStrike VTOL X-Plane - a futuristic experimental aircraft which uses 24 propellers to take off and land vertically.

The LightningStrike combines the best qualities of a helicopter and a regular fixed-wing plane. It can take off and land on the spot, without needing a long runway, but can also achieve speeds of up to 460mph, far faster than any helicopter.

The LightningStrike's two main wings, each of which holds nine fans, can tilt up and down, allowing it to change its speed and direction quickly. Two small wings on its nose, which contain three fans each, provide stability.

Importantly for the military, it's also good at lifting. Once completed, the aircraft will be able to carry a load of around 2,000 kilograms, or 40 per cent of its weight.

The plane was designed by Aurora Flight Sciences, a Virginia-based company who won the contract to make the aircraft a reality.

Dr John Langford, chief executive of the company, said the aircraft's development could be a "truly historic breakthrough in aviation technology," which could lead to a "revolutionary advacement" in the future capabilities of the US military.

For now, the LightningStrike is just a computer animation - but if all goes to plan, the real thing could begin flight tests as early as 2018.


Independent News Service

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