DARPA has selected Aurora Flight Sciences to build a full-scale X-plane to demonstrate the viability of using active flow control (AFC) actuators for primary flight control. The award is Phase 3 of the Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) program.
The X-65 flight is controlled by using jets of air from a pressurized source to shape the flow of air over the aircraft surface, with AFC effectors on several surfaces to control the plane’s roll, pitch, and yaw. Eliminating external moving parts is expected to reduce weight and complexity and to improve performance.
The X-65 will be built with two sets of control actuators – traditional flaps and rudders as well as AFC effectors embedded across all the lifting surfaces. This will both minimize risk and maximize the program’s insight into control effectiveness. The plane’s performance with traditional control surfaces will serve as a baseline; successive tests will selectively lock down moving surfaces, using AFC effectors instead.
“The X-65 conventional surfaces are like training wheels to help us understand how AFC can be used in place of traditional flaps and rudders,” said Wlezien. “We’ll have sensors in place to monitor how the AFC effectors’ performance compares with traditional control mechanisms, and these data will help us better understand how AFC could revolutionize both military and commercial craft in the future.”
The 7,000+ pound, unmanned X-65 will have a 30-foot wingspan and be capable of speeds up to Mach 0.7. Its weight, size, and speed – similar to a military trainer aircraft – make the flight-test results immediately relevant to real world aircraft design.
“We’re building the X-65 as a modular platform – wing sections and the AFC effectors can easily be swapped out – to allow it to live on as a test asset for DARPA and other agencies long after CRANE concludes,” said Wlezien.
Aurora Flight Sciences has already started fabricating the X-plane; the X-65 is scheduled to be rolled out in early 2025 with the first flight planned for summer of the same year.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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Source : Next Big Future