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German aircraft company e-volo has accomplished what it claims is the world's first manned...

By now, most readers are probably pretty familiar with quadracopters - small hovering unmanned electric aircraft, which get their lift from a set of four propellers. Well, make the whole thing larger, boost the number of propellers (and accompanying motors) to 16, and you get what German aircraft developer e-volo calls a multicopter. While the company has previously demonstrated unmanned drones, on October 21st it accomplished what it claims is a world first - a manned flight.  Read More

The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System flying with its landing gear up during a test flight ...

Having completed its first flight earlier this year, the Northrop Grumman-built U.S. Navy X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) aircraft achieved another milestone on September 30 with its first flight in cruise mode. Part of the on-going “envelope expansion” program to demonstrate the aircraft’s performance under a variety of altitude, speed and fuel load conditions, the flight took place at Edwards Air Force Base and saw the aircraft retracting its landing gear and flying in cruise configuration for the first time.  Read More

Derek Deville's Qu8k rocket climbed at altitude of 121,000 feet (36.8 km) after 92 seconds...

Launched from Black Rock Desert in Nevada on September 30 in an attempt to win John Carmack's 100kft Micro Prize, Derek Deville's home-built Qu8k rocket reached an altitude of 121,000 feet (36.8 km) after 92 seconds flight ... and captured some excellent video footage along the way.  Read More

DARPA researchers have ruggedized a compact solid oxide fuel cell fueled by propane and in...

Small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have become an increasingly important intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tool for the military and their use will only continue to expand. While vehicles that are small enough to be carried provide soldiers in the field with capabilities such as over-the-next-hill imagery or the short-term monitoring of convoys, much research is going into finding ways to extend mission duration through better battery systems. DARPA researchers say they have overcome this limitation with the development of a compact solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) fueled by propane that quadruples the endurance of small unmanned aircraft systems .  Read More

Pascal Chretien's prototype electric helicopter takes flight

It's easy to look back at the history of exploration and aviation and feel like there's no mountains left to climb, that the age of the great pioneers is behind us and we're doomed to a future of LCD tanning and monitor hypnosis. But don't try telling that to Pascal Chretien. On August 12, this electrical/aerospace engineer and helicopter pilot took to the air in the world's first untethered, fully electric manned helicopter flight in a prototype machine that he designed and built almost entirely by himself within a 12 month development period. In his 2 minute, 10 second test flight, Chretien beat aviation giant Sikorsky into the record books - but it was not without significant risk. As the man himself puts it: "in case of crash I stand good chances to end up in kebab form."  Read More

DARPA's HTV-2 hypersonic vehicle, which prematurely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on ...

The first – and perhaps only – video footage of the ill-fated second test-flight of DARPA’s Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) has been released. Shot with a handheld camera by a crewmember aboard the Pacific Tracker, the first monitoring vessel able to visually track the HTV’s initial entry into the atmosphere, the video shows the HTV-2 hurtling across the sky on August 11 at Mach 20 before its “controlled descent” into the Pacific Ocean.  Read More

Boeing has demonstrated swarm technology using two ScanEagles (pictured) and a Procerus Un...

Individually, insects have proven a deep well of inspiration for robotics engineers looking to mimic designs refined over millions of years of evolution. Now Boeing has demonstrated swarm technology for reconnaissance missions using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that is similar to the way insects communicate and work together as an intelligent group. Potential uses for the technology include search-and-rescue missions and identifying enemy threats ahead of ground patrols.  Read More

The bloon is designed to fly passengers to near-space at an altitude of 36 km

While space tourism efforts by the likes of Space Adventures and Virgin Galactic are relying on the tried and true technology of rockets to launch paying customers into space, Barcelona-based company zero2infinity proposes a more leisurely and eco-friendly ride into near-space using a helium balloon. Designed to carry passengers to an altitude of 36 km (22 miles), an unmanned scale prototype bloon was flown to an altitude of 33 km (20 miles) last year and the company is already taking bookings for passenger flights that are expected to lift off sometime between 2013 and 2015.  Read More

The HTV-2 is designed to travel at speeds of Mach 20

On Thursday, DARPA's unmanned Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2 (HTV-2) was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard an Air Force Minotaur IV rocket, which inserted the aircraft into the desired trajectory. After separation from the rocket, the vehicle transitioned to Mach 20 (approximately 13,000 mph/21,000 km/h) aerodynamic flight but a little after nine minutes of monitored flight the signal from the vehicle was lost with initial indications that the second test flight has ended in the same way as the first - with a crash into the Pacific Ocean.  Read More

The Quadshot is a remote-control model aircraft that can hover like a helicopter, or fly l...

Eurocopter's X3 hybrid helicopter demonstrator combined the full hover flight capabilities of a helicopter with the fast cruise speeds of a turboprop-powered aircraft by basically installing two propellers on short-span fixed wings to supplement the helicopter's five-blade main rotor system. Now a new type of remote control model aircraft is looking to combine the hover capabilities of a helicopter with the ability to fly like an airplane in a completely different design. Instead of the quadricopter design employed by the Parrot AR Drone, the Quadshot uses a "flying wing" design with its four rotors allowing it to hover vertically like a helicopter or turn horizontal and swoop through the air like a stunt plane.  Read More

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