Move over, hovercraft. This airplane can perch, bird-style, on a power line.
Using computer algorithms, MIT researchers have designed a foam glider with a single motor on its tail that can perch like a bird. The work has implications for robotic planes, potentially allowing them to recharge their batteries by perching on power lines, according to MIT News.
Having had limited success catching America's enemies by "smoking them out of their holes," Lockheed Martin and the DoD are turning to an airborne sensor-based platform to map the subterranean world and identify possible threats hiding there. As part of DARPA's Gravity Anomaly for Tunnel Exposure (GATE) program, Lockheed will develop a system that identifies underground targets by analyzing gravity signatures for the sign of man-made tunnels, bunkers, or caches.
Some innovations in flight are huge; for instance, this week we've already seen concepts for a flying car and caught wind of the first fully-autonomous helicopter flight.
But other aviation innovations are as simple as a fresh coat of paint. An Israeli nanotech company is claiming that it has created a special paint that makes planes, missiles, drones, and other aircraft invisible to radar.
An Army-funded research group at Carnegie Mellon University, working with engineers at Piasecki Aircraft Corporation, has made a huge leap forward -- or perhaps skyward -- for the future of autonomous flight. In mid-June, the team launched an unmanned helicopter and watched it land several minutes later, after negotiating an in-flight obstacle course. But unlike previous unmanned helo flights, this one required no human input whatsoever; for the first time ever, a full-sized helicopter made a fully autonomous flight.
The future of spycraft looks pretty heavy, if this new Boeing plane is any indication. Adding to today's parade of pretty new planes, Boeing unveiled a hydrogen-powered unmanned aircraft system Monday that will stay aloft at 65,000 feet for four days.
The Phantom Eye is not exactly sleek, but it's one of the greenest aircraft out there -- its only byproduct is water.
A team of visionary Swiss engineers and at least one test pilot with nerves of steel have pushed solar-powered flight to the next level, completing an overnight flight that proves solar flight is possible even when the plane's fuel source dips behind the horizon. This morning test-pilot André Borschberg successfully put Solar Impulse HB-SIA on the ground safely after 26 hours and nine minutes of flight powered solely by the sun.
The Swiss-built Solar Impulse airplane is about to enter the darkness today, already several hours into what is slated to become its first all-night flight.
Pilot (and CEO) André Borschberg has been gradually climbing to an altitude of about 27,000 feet, with the plane's 10,748 solar panels soaking up the sun's rays and charging the aircraft's batteries. As darkness falls over Europe, Borschberg will slowly descend to about 5,000 feet, essentially using the plane as a glider before reverting to battery power.
Big problems call for big responses, and while armchair pundits and denizens of the blogosphere pick apart the government response to the BP oil spill, the Navy is bringing out the big guns to help with the containment effort. The Navy's massive MZ-3A Airship is expected to arrive in the Gulf sometime today (or perhaps a bit later -- airships travel slowly and are subject to the whims of the weather) to support and coordinate skimming efforts and keep an eye out for injured animals along the coastline.
True to its aeronautic roots, NASA is evaluating a new generation of supersonic airplane designs to see whether they can reduce sonic-boom levels.
Boeing and Lockheed Martin have submitted futuristic concepts that look similar to the Concorde, but aim to muffle the annoying and potentially damaging sonic boom problem.