A "flying saucer" air-vehicle concept pursued for several years by Russia's Saratov Aviation is being backed by the US Navy. Naval Air Systems Command (Navair) has signed a letter of intent with Saratov to develop a small unmanned air vehicle to be flight tested in the USA to validate the "vortex oscillating propulsion system" concept.

Saratov has been working on the concept for some time under the EKIP programme, but has struggled to secure funding for development. The company has tested scale models, but has revealed little about how its concept works. The models are saucer-shaped and appear to use lifting-body aerodynamics, with circulation control and propulsion combined, a stubby wing for flight control and a skirtless air-cushion rather than landing-gear for short take-off and landing (STOL).

The concept "allows efficient flight of odd-shaped objects" and the technology could allow development of "a new range of aerodynamic shapes", Navair says, adding that preliminary testing was "impressive enough" for it to sign a letter of intent to pursue the technology jointly.

Plans call for the small UAV to be tested in the USA in three to five years, and a larger variant could be pursued if the tests are successful. Saratov flew an unmanned prototype of the EKIP in 1994, followed by a larger model, and has projected 32-seat, 400-seat and 1,000-seat versions of the STOL vehicle.

Source: Flight International