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Flight


— Drones

Hovering kestrel inspires drone that gains altitude without using power

A near-future where the skies are filled with drones carrying out deliveries and surveillance might be hard to imagine, but it is something aerospace experts are already giving careful consideration to. Improving the efficiency of these vehicles, even at the margins, could mean huge energy savings and more reliable services across the board. To this end, Australian researchers have developed a fixed-wing aircraft that uses natural updrafts to climb higher, inspired by the ability of the kestrel falcon to hover while searching for prey on the ground.

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— Aircraft

Airbus A350-900ULR to fly world’s longest commercial passenger route

Any masochists who think spending just under 17 hours on a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Sydney just isn’t long enough are set to get a chance to test their endurance further. Airbus is to supply Singapore Airlines with seven Ultra-Long Range versions of its A350-900 that can fly for up to 19 hours non-stop, allowing the airline to relaunch direct flights between Singapore and the US, including New York.

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— Aircraft

NASA develops app to cut airline flight times and fuel use

Shaving a few minutes off flight times mightn't seem like that big a deal, but with tens of thousands of aircraft jetting across the skies each day, the fuel and carbon emission savings would quickly add up if more direct routes were taken more often. NASA is looking to encourage exactly that with software for air carriers that monitors conditions like weather and flight paths to suggest faster routes. Virgin America and Alaska Airlines have answered the boarding call and will put the system through its paces over the next three years.

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— Aircraft

Onward and very much upward after Perlan Mission II's maiden flight

The Perlan Mission II glider, which is designed to fly higher than the U-2 spy plane and SR-71 Blackbird, has made its maiden flight. The aircraft separated from its towplane at an altitude of 5,000 feet above Roberts Field at Redmond Municipal Airport in Oregon, but is expected to go much higher next year when it makes a world altitude record attempt to the edge of space.

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— Robotics

VelociRoACH gets a job as an aircraft carrier

In nature, you're not likely to ever see a bird get a piggyback ride from a cockroach and then take off from its back. But in the world of bio-inspired robotics, such things can and do happen. Researchers from the UC Berkeley's Biomimetic Millisystems Lab have successfully demonstrated a cooperative launching system that puts a lightweight ornithopter on the back of its VelociRoACH robotic carpet crawler for a short run before the H2Bird takes to the air.

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— Drones

Bird-inspired self-folding wings could help drones recover from collisions

If you've ever watched a flying bird weaving its way through a forest, you may have wondered how it could do so without hitting its wings on the trees. Well, birds actually do hit trees with their wings. Unlike the rigid wings of an aircraft, however, birds' wings simply fold back under impact, then immediately fold open again to maintain flight. Now, scientists from Stanford University have developed wings for flapping-wing drones that do the same thing. Read More
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