Engineers at NASA has successfully tested the Greased Lightning GL-10 which resembles a B-52 of unmanned aerial vehicles. GL-10 is powered by batteries and has 10-rotor remotely piloted aircraft. It takes off and lands like a helicopter but can also turn into a conventional flight in mid-air. Shifting from hover to wing-borne flight has always baffled many aerospace engineers. But with GL-10, they are surely taking a big step in the right direction.
NASA has always visioned the future of aircrafts that can take off vertically but still fly like traditional airplanes. And GL-10 is the realization of that vision. With aircrafts like GL-10, vertical takeoffs will be made possible since it can be deployed in tight spaces, and shifting to winged flight makes it more efficient than a helicopter.
NASA engineers designed a better tilt-rotor by rapidly prototyping scaled-down designs. They built 12 prototypes made of five-pound foam models. The outcome is the current GL-10 prototype weighing 62 pounds and is constructed with high-quality carbon fiber. It has four engines on each wing, and two on the tail.
The GL-10 is NASA’s vision for the future of tilt-rotors, or aircraft that can vertically take off, but fly like traditional airplanes. Vertical takeoffs make the craft deployable in tight spaces, and shifting to winged flight makes it more efficient than a helicopter. The United States Marine Corps and Air Force already deploy hundreds of V-22 Osprey tilt-rotors all over the world, but these machines have a spotty — sometimes fatal — track record. So engineers at NASA went to work designing a better tilt-rotor by rapidly prototyping scaled-down designs. They built 12 prototypes, starting with simple five-pound foam models, and built up to the current GL-10 prototype that weighs 62 pounds and is constructed with high-quality carbon fiber. The GL-10 has four engines on each wing, and two on the tail.
The GL-10 went through several hovering tests which it successfully passed. The engineers wanted to test if the aircraft could change flight modes without falling from the sky near NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. Again, it passed.
“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,” aerospace engineer Bill Fredericks said. “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.”