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Flight

Researchers from the University of Maryland have built a new micro air vehicle dubbed Robo Raven that's such a convincing flyer, it's been attacked by a local hawk during testing. Though numerous other robotic birds have successfully taken to the skies in recent years, including Festo's visually stunning SmartBird, this featherless mechanical marvel is capable of impressive complex aerobatic maneuvers thanks to completely programmable wings that can flap independently of each other. Read More

Just a week after the first in-flight venting of its nitrous system, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo has made an even more spectacular step on the way to its first powered flight. The craft's 25th glide flight on April 12 saw oxidizer flow through the craft’s propulsion system and expelled through the nozzle at its rear in what is known as a “Cold Flow” procedure. Read More

Czech light aircraft specialist Evektor-Aerotechnik has announced the maiden flight of its all-electric SportStar EPOS two-seater airplane. On March 28, the EPOS made two back-to-back flights with a combined flight time of 30 minutes. The EPOS, the name of which derives from "electric-powered small aircraft," is powered by a single 50-kW Rotex Electric motor and features what its makers describe as a "new trapezoidal wing of extended span," which is 10.46 m (34.3 ft) tip to tip. Read More
The flight testing campaign of the X-48C Blended Wing Body (BWB, aka Hybrid Wing Body) research aircraft kicked off on August 7, 2012, at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. Eight months later the campaign has come to a close with the 30th and final flight carried out on April 12. NASA plans to use the data gathered over the campaign to aid in the design of future “green” airliners that are quieter and more fuel-efficient than conventional aircraft, while Boeing is touting the design's potential military applications. Read More

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo left terra firma for her 24th glide flight on Wednesday morning. The flight was the first in which the loading and venting of the ship's nitrous system was tested. Virgin Galactic described the flight as "another key milestone on the way to our first powered flight." Read More

The dragonfly is quite the show off when it comes to flying. It can hover in mid-air, maneuver in all directions, and glide without so much as a beat of its wings. After succeeding in capturing the essence of a herring gull with the SmartBird, the folks over at German pneumatic and electric automation company Festo challenged themselves with the creation of a robotic addition to the dragonfly family – the BionicOpter. Read More
Recently, we've seen a robotic ostrich. Now, there’s a robot bat – or at least, part of one. Joseph Bahlman, a graduate student at Brown University, with the help of Professors Kenneth Breuer and Sharon Swartz, has developed a robotic bat wing that mimics the ligaments, skin and structural supports of the real thing. The purpose of the motorized plastic bat is to gain a better understanding of how bats are engineered and fly. Read More
Apparently, balancing a pole on top of a flying quadrocopter robot wasn't challenging enough for the researchers at ETH Zurich's Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control. Their latest project has two quadrocopters playing catch with a precariously balanced pole – the first robot launches the pole into the air, while the second robot deftly moves into position in less than a second to catch it as it falls. The incredible precision flying achieved by the team can be seen in a video after the break. Read More
While most of us sit around grumbling and demanding to know, “where’s my jetpack?", German Fritz Unger and a group of friends have decided to do something about it. On a shoestring budget they are building their own one-man, jet-propelled wing. Dubbed “Skyflash,” it’s meant to not only emulate the jet wing made famous by Jetman Yves Rossy, but to go one better by taking off from the ground instead of having to be dropped from an aircraft. Read More

Armadillo Aerospace has taken some major strides with its FAA-approved suborbital rocket, the STIG-B. Despite encountering difficulties reaching design altitude during testing, the company appears to have mastered the landing side of the equation using a self-guided ramair parachute system. A flight on December 6 returned the rocket to within 55 meters (180 ft) of the intended recovery point. Read More

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