DH - Defence Helicopter

Aurora flies subscale LightningStrike

20th April 2016 - 11:04 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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Aurora Flight Sciences has successfully conducted the first flight of a subscale vehicle demonstrator (SVD) of its LightningStrike vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) X-Plane for DARPA at a US military facility, it announced on 18 April.

The flight was carried out as part of risk reduction requirements and was focused on validating the aircraft's aerodynamic design and flight control system. 

Weighing 325lbs, the subscale aircraft is a 20% scale flight model of the full scale demonstrator that the company will build for DARPA in the coming 24 months. 
During the flight, Aurora personnel controlled the take-off, hover and landing of the aircraft from a nearby ground control station, while US government officials, including DARPA personnel, controlled oversight and coordination.

Tom Clancy, chief technology officer, Aurora, said: ‘Our design’s distributed electric propulsion system involves breaking new ground with a flight control system requiring a complex set of control effectors. This first flight is an important, initial confirmation that both the flight controls and aerodynamic design are aligning with our design predictions.’

Aurora's design uses a hybrid structure of carbon fiber and 3D printed FDM plastics to achieve highly complex structural and aerodynamic surfaces with minimal weight.

DARPA announced the award of the Phase II contract for VTOL X-Plane programme to Aurora in March 2016, following a multi-year Phase I design competition. Over the next year, Aurora's LightningStrike team will focus on further validating the flight control system and configuration of the full-scale demonstrator.

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