A six-month flight test campaign has kicked off at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB in California to evaluate the latest iteration of the remotely piloted Boeing X-48C Blended Wing Body research aircraft.

Project partners Boeing, Cranfield Aerospace, NASA and the US Air Force Research Laboratory believe the design improves fuel economy and noise compared with standard wing-and-tube configurations.

The X-48C, a modified version of the X-48B that flew 92 times at Dryden between 2007 and 2010, has two 89lb thrust (0.39kN) turbojet engines instead of the B-model's three 50lb engines. Wing-tip winglets have also been relocated inboard next to the engines on the C-model, effectively turning them into twin tails, and the aft deck was extended by about 60cm (24in) at the rear.

The 6.4m wingspan, 230kg (507lb) aircraft, designed by Boeing and built by Cranfield Aerospace in the UK, is an 8.5% scale model of a heavy-lift, subsonic design with a 73m wingspan that the team believes could be developed in the next 15 to 20 years for military applications such as aerial refuelling and cargo missions. The X-48C has an estimated top speed of about 120kt (222km/h), with a maximum altitude of 10,000ft.

Source: Flight International