Looking more like a high-tech fighter than a light plane designed for private use, the Valkyrie from Cobalt aircraft has just been launched. With a canard front wing, sleek aerodynamic shape and a turbocharged 350 hp (260 kW) engine, the new Valkyrie is claimed to be capable of traveling at speeds of up to 260 knots (482 km/h, 300 mph) and has capacity for up to five adults and their luggage.
Stealth aircraft like the F35 fighter generally rely on high-tech absorption materials and unusual geometries to scatter, deflect, and sponge up incoming radar signals. These techniques are exceptionally good at masking a vehicle's shape and size, particularly when swept with side-scanning radar. However, with lower-frequency, directed anti-stealth radar-targeting systems being developed, these surfaces prove much less able to hide an object. To help address this, a team of Chinese scientists has developed a thin electronic material that sheaths an object and effectively absorbs radar signals over a wide range of frequencies.
Takeoffs and landings account for 66 percent of fatal air accidents, but current air traffic control systems are designed mainly to monitor aircraft that are in mid-flight. To help fill this gap, ALTACAS Technology has developed its Aerial, Landing, & Takeoff Aircraft Crash Avoidance System (ALTACAS). Designed to be retrofitted to current aircraft and as a supplement to existing next-generation air traffic control and crash avoidance systems, it uses lasers and microprocessors to monitor runways and flight paths during takeoffs and landings.
Military airborne communications can be tricky. Not only do they need to overcome attempted disruption from hostiles, but also tackle the difficulties in getting different systems to work together. DARPA is looking to improve things, soliciting proposals to get both manned and unmanned systems communicating faster, more securely and in spite of enemy jamming attempts.
A world where unmanned aircraft soar alongside their manned counterparts mightn't be all that far away, with UK defence firm Thales recently flying its Watchkeeper drone in civil airspace for the first time. The test run has been labeled a success, with operators saying it brings the UK one step closer to using unmanned aircraft for various applications, including security missions and border patrol.
Last year, Lockheed Martin began testing a new tactical laser turret for future warplanes. After 60 test flights Lockheed says the 360° capability of the turret system has been verified, moving the technology a step closer to deployment on tactical aircraft flying at near-supersonic speeds.
Two years ago, DARPA started developing self-destructing electronics as a way to prevent advanced military gear falling into the wrong hands. Now the agency is expanding on the idea with its Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems (ICARUS) program, which is tasked with developing small, unmanned, single-use, unpowered air vehicles that can can be dropped from an aircraft to deliver supplies to isolated locations in the event of disasters, then evaporate into thin air once their job is done.
To gain proficiency, pilots need realistic training, but they also need to avoid needless cost and risk. Real aircraft provide the most obviously realistic training, but they're dangerous in inexperienced hands. Meanwhile, simulators can reproduce much of the look and feel of actual flying without the danger of losing an aircraft or pilot, but they aren't as successful when it comes to complex maneuvers like aerial-refueling. To square the circle, NASA is developing a technology called Fused Reality, which uses a special headset that combines real flying in a real aircraft with an overlaid simulation.
In June, Boeing’s new 737 MAX single-aisle airliner began wing assembly in Renton, Washington. Since then, the first fuselage arrived from Wichita, Kansas, and is now undergoing final assembly, which includes installation of a new advanced winglet designed to improve fuel efficiency.
The U-2 spy plane was first constructed at Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works in 1955 and went on to become one of the most important intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft of the Cold War. It is one of the few aircraft of its vintage still in active service with the US Air Force, but Lockheed has now unveiled details of its possible successor. Designated the TR-X, the concept aircraft is an improved, stealthier version of the 60-year-old design and could enter service in 10 years.