DARPA Completes Testing of Subscale Hybrid Electric VTOL X-Plane

Watch the flight-tests of DARPA’s sub-scale version of the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) X-Plane UAS. Developed and fabricated by Aurora Flight Sciences, the UAS includes 24 electric ducted fans — 18 distributed within the main wings and six in the canard surfaces, with the wings and canards tilting upwards for vertical flight and rotating to a horizontal position for wing-borne flight.

Subscale testing began on the VTOL program in March of 2016 and the first phase of testing ended after six flights with demonstration of auto take off, sustained hover, directional and translational control (including lateral and rearward flight), waypoint navigation, and auto landing. Later, the aircraft wing and canard tilt mechanisms, tilt schedules, and wing-borne flight controls were enabled for testing. Four of the test flights featured an expanded flight envelope in which the vehicle experimented with increases in air speed until the wing generated most of the lift.

DARPA is now proceeding with work to develop a full-scale version of the groundbreaking plane.