NASA studies unmanned aircraft


Scientists the world over are looking to combine flying wing technology with pilotless aircraft in commercial as well as military capacities.

NASA’s remotely piloted X-48C hybrid-wing-body subscale aircraft, which tests concepts for cleaner and quieter commercial air travel, completed an eight-month flight research campaign early April.

The C model of the X-48 aircraft initially flew at Edwards Air Force Base last August and its 30th and final flight on April 4 brought the productive research project to a close.

“We have accomplished our goals of establishing a ground-to-flight database, and proving the low speed controllability of the concept throughout the flight envelope,” said Fay Collier, manager of NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation project.

“Very quiet and efficient, the hybrid wing body has shown promise for meeting all of NASA’s environmental goals for future aircraft designs.”

The scale-model aircraft, shaped like a manta ray, was designed by The Boeing Co., built by Cranfield Aerospace Limited of the United Kingdom and flown in partnership with NASA.

The X-48C is a version of NASA’s X-48B blended wing body aircraft modified to evaluate the low-speed stability and control of a low-noise version of a hybrid-wing-body design.

The design stems from concept studies for commercial aircraft that could be flying within 20 years.