X-65, the revolutionary rudderless aircraft enters the assembly phase

2024-01-20 20:14:08

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After wind tunnel tests, then software developments and flight controls, the drone X-65 revolutionary in its concept will enter the third phase of its program led by Darpa. It consists of building a functional demonstrator. AuroraAurora Flight Sciences, a subsidiary of Boeing, will develop this prototype. The demonstrator will have a wingspan of just over 9 meters and a mass of 3.17 tonnes. It should reach Mach 0.7, or subsonic speed. If it is a drone, its dimensions will be identical to those of a military aircraft. This will eventually make it possible to replicate the technology directly on a piloted aircraft. The particularity of the X-65 is that it does not have moving elements, such as ailerons, rudders and flaps.

Premier vol en 2025

Instead, the device is equipped with an active flow control (AFC) system. To maneuver, more or less powerful pressurized air jets make it possible to modify the flow around the aircraft. With this process, the aircraft is both lighter, supports fewer physical constraints and is less mechanically complex. The absence of moving elements also reinforces stealth.

Initially, the demonstrator will be equipped with both traditional control surfaces and the AFC system. This will allow the performance of each system to be compared. The X-65 will be designed as a modular testbed. That is to say, it can be configured with different types of wings and AFC effectors to carry out the tests.

Darpa and Aurora Flight Sciences plan to complete construction in early 2025. The X-65’s maiden flight is expected to take place in the summer of that year. See you next year!

The American army is working on an X-Plane controlled by… the wind!

In order to revolutionize stealth military aircraft, the American army is working on an X-Plane without movable control surfaces. Here’s how.

Article by Sylvain BigetSylvain Biget published on January 22, 2023

For several years now, the American army’s research and development agency, Darpa, has been developing an X-Plane as part of Project Crane (Revolutionary Aircraft Control with New Effectors). The device is designed to reduce air friction on its cabin as much as possible in order to increase performance, and also reduce its radar signature as much as possible.

The aircraft does not have any moving elements, such as fins or flaps. In their place, the technology relies on what Darpa calls an active flow control (AFC) system. There are small propellers or vacuum cleaners on the cabin which are activated to modify the flow of air around the aircraft and to maneuver it.

Darpa announces the launch of phase two of its futuristic stealth aircraft program. © Darpa Twitter

A future three-tonne demonstrator

This January 17, the American agency announcement that the preliminary design phase of the program is completed. This means that a prototype equipped with the AFC system has been successfully tested on a wind tunnel test bench. Phase two will now begin. It will consist of developing software and flight controls to be able to design a real demonstrator. In phase three, a full-scale prototype weighing more than three tonnes will incorporate the AFC for flight testing.

It is still Aurora Flight Sciences, a subsidiary of Boeing, which will lead this program. For the moment, on its test bench, the plane is modular. This process allows the wings and AFC modules to be replaced. This modularity gives it a certain flexibility to carry out different tests and find the most efficient architecture.

The Pentagon is working on an X-Plane without rudder or ailerons

Optimizing the flow of air around the cabin of an aircraft to reduce friction to zero is what the Pentagon is trying to do with an aircraft project devoid of fin or ailerons.

Article by Sylvain Biget, published on November 23, 2020

The aircraft should resemble an arrowhead. No aileron, no rudder, an elongated and pointed profile. Here is an artist’s impression of the experimental aircraft project from Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences. For this X-Plane, the principle consists of reducing as much as possible the friction of the air on the aircraft’s cabin in order to increase its performance. The research work is part of the Crane project (Revolutionary aircraft control with new effectors) of the Darpathe U.S. Army’s research and development agency.

This project would make it possible to obtain a high-performance and stealthy military aircraft because it has a low radar signature with such a profile. More ailerons therefore, but also more flaps to modify the profile of the wing at low speed and avoid stalling stall near the ground. In their place, the technology relies on active flow control (AFC).

Make the air slide without slowing it down

Instead of moving planes, there will be small thrusters or vacuum cleaners which will activate as necessary to add the energy energy necessary for a movement, or to modify the flow of air around the plane. For the rest, the cabin of the plane will be perfectly smooth and free of anything that could alter the aerodynamics. In all cases, the idea is to reduce friction as much as possible to improve performance. In addition d’Aurora, the University of Arizona in the United States will lead the research for a first phase which will last at least one year. Note that at the same time, other work, including a demonstrator, is being carried out by Lockheed Martin and the Georgia Tech Research Corp. under the authority of Darpa.

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