Lockheed Martin was late last week expected to announce the first flight of its morphing aircraft structures (MAS) demonstrator unmanned air vehicle at NASA Dryden in California.

Meanwhile, rival MAS unmanned air vehicle developer NextGen Aeronautics says it is exploring modifying a Northrop Grumman Firebee target UAV to carry a wingform that could change its surface area in flight by up to 126%. The NextGen wingform uses a dense latticework structure to replace traditional spar and rib architecture. Piezo electric actuators would be placed selectively at lattice junctures to allow the structure to change shape horizontally to create a wide variety of wing shapes. These include broad-span to achieve high lift as well as large bat-wing forms for high-speed flight.

Lockheed Martin and NextGen are under contract to DARPA to develop MAS concepts, with a downselect planned for late 2005. The Lockheed Martin demonstrator made an initial flight attempt on 17 September after high-speed ground manouevring trials, but an engine flame-out caused a delay. The UAV has wings that fold inboard through a vertical plane to reduce the surface area.

Source: Flight International