DARPA's dream of vertical-take-off-and-landing is getting closer to fruition, with the first successful flight of a 24-rotor aircraft. Aurora Flight Sciences, which was awarded the Phase 2 contract for the X-Plane program in March this year, successfully flew a subscale model of their LightningStrike aircraft at a military facility in the US.
The model itself is a 20 percent scale model of the aircraft, and weighs 150 kilograms (325 pounds). It's constructed of strong but lightweight carbon fibre and 3D-printed plastics. Controlled by Aurora Flight Sciences personnel on the ground, the craft managed to take off, hover and land, lifted by 24 rotors powered by synchronous motors, like an upscaled, high-tech drone.
There's still some work to complete. The team at Aurora will be attempting to improve both flight speed and hover efficiency over the next year, with a view to a top sustained speed of 400 knots (around 740 kmh or 460 mph). They'll also be working on the flight system and configuring the full-scale LightningStrike.