A battery-powered plane with ten engines and which can take off like a helicopter and fly efficiently like an aircraft is being looked at for small package delivery or long endurance surveillance in agriculture and mappi.ng.
Greased Lightning (GL-10) is a concept being developed by NASA researchers at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. It is currently in the design and testing phase.
More excitingly, the researchers say that a scaled-up version could make one to four person size personal air vehicle. The initial thought was to develop a 20-foot wingspan (6.1m) aircraft powered by hybrid diesel/electric engines, but the team started with smaller versions for testing, built by rapid prototyping.
“We built 12 prototypes, starting with simple five-pound foam models and then 25-pound, highly modified fibreglass hobby airplane kits all leading up to the 55-pound, high quality, carbon fibre GL-10 built in our model shop by expert technicians,” said aerospace engineer David North. “Each prototype helped us answer technical questions while keeping costs down. We did lose some of the early prototypes to ‘hard landings’ as we learned how to configure the flight control system.”