FASTER AND FARTHER: A NEW AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY DRONE, “LIGHTNINGSTRIKE”

Fox News on November 3, 2017, published an article by defense specialist Allison Barrie on a revolutionary new American drone that will fly faster and farther than ever before. Excerpts below:

The advances made with this electric aircraft hybrid – part helicopter and part airplane – could help pave the way to a future where every ground unit has a powerful drone at its disposal.

LightningStrike has potential to make missions faster, travel more stealthy and quiet – and not to mention safer- for American warfighters.

And this aircraft does not need a runway to land.

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) funded Aurora Flight Sciences to take part in the Vertical Take-Off and Landing Experimental Aircraft (VTOL X-Plane) initiative. Aurora Flight Sciences created the remarkable LightningStrike aircraft with partners Rolls-Royce and Honeywell.

The U.S. Air Force and DARPA have now named this drone the XV-24A LightningStrike.

LightningStrike is a tilt-wing drone that is powered by an “Electric Distributed Propulsion system.”

Helicopters have provided the US military with critical VTOL capabilities for more than six decades.

Helicopters are vital, but often there is so much demand for helicopters in a war zone there are not enough to go around.

Enter LightningStrike. An exciting drone solution to supporting small ground units in tough places.

Like U.S. military helicopters, it can provide hovering, omnidirectional maneuverability, and lands on almost any flat surface – and more.

The drone could theoretically be used for missions such as resupply, casualty evacuation, and tactical insertion and extraction. It could even be capable of other missions too like intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR).

DARPA has challenged Aurora Sciences to achieve their goal of a top sustained flight speed of 400 knots (460 mph).

LightningStrike looks on track to achieve speeds far faster than the current military helicopters.

Speed is important. By increasing speed, it is possible to reduce exposure to enemy attack. It also means mission times can be shortened and possibly even help ensure mission success.

It will be the first aircraft in aviation history to demonstrate distributed hybrid-electric propulsion using an innovative synchronous electric-drive system, according to Aurora Flight Sciences.

In addition to better speed, this electric aircraft would provide quieter and more fuel-efficient flights.

DARPA’s aim is for this new aircraft to be able to carry about 40 percent of its 12,000 pounds of weight.

And since LightningStrike is designed to be runway independent, not only can it access extreme remote locations faster, and deliver better hovering – it can also land there without any preparation on the ground.

Aurora’s design for the drone incorporates two large rear wings and at the nose of the aircraft there are two smaller front canards. These are like little winglets that can enhance aircraft control.

The wings and the canards rotate to direct fan thrust. To fly forward, it would be rearward. To hover, it would be downward. Electric motors drive these to deliver thrust. This enables the groundbreaking drone to both hover and cruise.

The drone uses the V-22 Osprey Rolls-Royce AE 1107C turboshaft engine to provide electrical power. This engine drives the three Honeywell generators, which in turn deliver power to the wing and canard electric motors.

Earlier this year, a smaller scale prototype went through flight testing in Maryland. The groundbreaking drone was extremely successful.

The smaller scale, lithium battery powered aircraft was a 325-pounder, significantly smaller than the full-scale prototype aircraft.

A Black Hawk helicopter has about a 54- foot wingspan and the expectation is that the LightningStrike will have a 61-foot wingspan.

The full scale prototype is scheduled to begin flight testing next year in 2018.

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