Northrop Grumman's X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) may have grabbed headlines earlier this year with its first launches from and landings aboard an aircraft carrier, but Aerovel Corporation has completed an equally impressive launch, flight and landing of its Flexrotor UAV from a somewhat smaller carrier. And in this case, not only was the aircraft unmanned, so was the boat.
In an attempt to combine the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities of a helicopter, with the speed, range and altitude capabilities of a fixed wing aircraft, tiltrotor aircraft, such as the AgustaWestland AW609 and the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey rely on powered rotors mounted on rotating shafts or nacelles at the end of a fixed wing. But the tiltrotor design isn’t the only option for aircraft looking to get the best of both worlds. Like Aerovironment’s SkyTote, the Flexrotor is designed to transition from vertical to horizontal flight without any pivoting of its rotor.