NASA's Ten Engine Electric Drone Goes From Chopper to Aeroplane and Back

By Maddie Stone on at

Space missions get all the hype, but NASA Aeronautics is doing some pretty cool stuff, too. Their ten engine, unmanned electric plane, for instance, has just successfully transitioned from hover mode to wing-borne flight and back again.

Dubbed the Greased Lightning (GL-10), the current prototype for this UAV has a ten-foot wingspan, with eight electric motors along its wings and two on its tail. For take-off and landing, this clever plane points its wings up and hovers like a helicopter. Once airborne, the wings tilt forward and the drone switches to aeroplane mode. At least, that’s what NASA has been hoping would happen. Transitioning from vertical to forward flight without falling out of the sky is no small challenge, as the engineers behind the V-22 Osprey have been made painfully aware.

But so far, so good! Here’s a video released last week showing the drone’s first successful transition from chopper to aeroplane. If the GL-10 continues to perform well, NASA hopes the small craft could eventually be used for a range of applications, including package delivery, long-endurance agricultural surveillance and mapping.

Zoom zoom zoom! [Engadget]

Top image: NASA Langley/David C. Bowman