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Aurora flies subscaled electric VTOL demonstrator

Aurora Flight Sciences has flown a 20%-scaled demonstrator of the unmanned LightningStrike, a uniquely electric-powered X-plane launched less than two months ago with a contract from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The high-speed vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft flew briefly in the 29 March test flight, the Virginia-based technology company announced on 18 April.

"The successful subscale aircraft flight was an important and exciting step for Aurora and our customer," says Tom Clancy, Aurora's chief technology officer.

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Subscale LightningStrike's first flight on 29 March

Aurora Flight Sciences

The Lightning Strike is powered by an array of propulsive fans distributed along the wing and a canard, all powered by a central electric motor.

DARPA selected Aurora’s proposal for the VTOL X-plane programme, which seeks a substantial leap in the fuel efficiency of aircraft with vertical lift capability and fixed-wing cruising speed. If successful, the technology could offer vertical lift with little of the fuel efficiency penalty common to most rotorcraft, such as helicopters, compared to fixed-wing types that must take-off and land on runways.

Aurora Flight Sciences

The full-scale Lightning Strike is expected to fly within two years and demonstrate a top sustained flight speed between 300-400kt, while offering a 60-75% increase in hover efficiency compared to “existing” VTOL aircraft.

The demonstration flight on 29 March marked the first successful use of a synchronous electric-drive system for propulsion, Aurora says.

Aurora’s engineers are now working on validating the flight control system and refining the configuration of the full-scale demonstrator.

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Aurora Flight Sciences

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