Feeds

X-48B mini flying-wing drone prototype resumes testing

NASA/Boeing mantacraft model pulls in slats

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A NASA/Boeing project working on the aerodynamics of proposed "blended wing body" (BWB) flying-wing-esque aircraft has entered its second phase of flight tests.

The test programme is using one-twelfth-scale model aircraft, manufactured in the UK and remotely controlled from the ground.

The X-48B in wind tunnel testing

The NASA model-plane club were the envy of nerds worldwide

Flight International reports on the restart of BWB testing at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Centre in California, following initial flights last year.

The miniature (though still 21 feet across) prototype BWBs have now been modified into a different configuration, mimicking the action of retracting slats which - on a full-scale aircraft - would be controllable in flight.

The US Air Force, interested in the project, has given them an X-plane experimental aircraft designator, X-48B. NASA has also dubbed the flying "ship 2" airframe "Skyray 48". ("Ship 1" was built for windtunnel use, and as a spare.)

"With slats retracted the take-off and landing approach speeds are about 70 knots (129kph), [which is] 15 knots higher than with slats extended," Boeing X-48B boffin Norman Princeon told Flight.

Boeing and NASA reckon that BWB airframes could be quieter and more economical than ordinary jets. The X-48B prototypes, built by Blighty's Cranfield Aerospace, are intended to gather details on the performance that could be expected from full-size jobs. They are scaled down from a conceptual 450-passenger airliner design, though in reality Boeing would expect any initial production orders to be for US Air Force transports or tankers.

Many designs for flying wings or partial flying wings have been produced in the past, and quite a few have flown; but none thus far have matched ordinary tube-and-wing airframes in terms of costs to do a given job. (Except perhaps the B-2 stealth bomber, and now even this faces rivalry from more normally-configured stealthy designs).

The BWB shape represents an intermediate step between ordinary planes and pure flying wings, and many engineers have high hopes for it - in particular regarding noise limitation, nowadays a high priority in commercial aircraft designs.

A different BWB design is being pursued by an alliance of boffins from Cambridge University in the UK and America's MIT.

Regarding the X-48B, it seems that "Ship 2" is currently low on endurance, meaning that test flights are short. Boeing has proposed extending the test programme to make up for this, and suggested changing propulsion systems.

At present the X-48B is fitted with fuel-guzzling mini turbojets, rather than the more economical high-bypass engines which would drive a full-size version. Boeing reckons it could modify model-aircraft turboprops into miniature turbofans, so getting better fuel mileage out of the BWB and more data from test flights.

NASA engineers also have plans of their own for fiddling with the design and playing with it more extensively. However, at the moment there are no funds in place for any extra tinkering. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
HUGE SHARK as big as a WWII SUBMARINE died out, allowing whales to exist
Who'd win a fight: Megalodon or a German battleship?
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
OK Google, do I have CANCER?
Company talks up pill that would spot developing tumors
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.