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Future Tech: 

NASA’s new drone is half plane, half helicopter


NASA’s new drone is systematic, hydromatic, automatic. Why, it’s Greased Lightning!

When it’s not breaking physics or setting its sights on the sun, NASA keeps itself busy. Its most recent project is the kind of thing you’d expect to see funded by Michael Bay’s Transformers before the US government, combining airplane and chopper into an all-in-one vehicle dubbed Greased Lightning, or GL-10 for short.

The GL-10 is a product of NASA’s Langley Research Center, designed to replicate the speed and distance of a regular plane, while borrowing the helicopter’s maneuverability and easy take-off procedure. The remotely piloted drone has 10 electric motors, and can change its shape mid-flight to fly vertically or horizontally, which we imagine is awfully handy.

Greased Lightning was recently seen in action during a test flight over Hampton, Virginia, switching between its two flight modes without a hitch. Everybody’s favorite space agency admits it has created 12 prototypes to date, losing a few to “hard landings,” but learning and improving its design with each attempt. Watch proof of that successful transition below;

NASA’s engineers were ecstatic with their test flight success;

“During the flight tests we successfully transitioned from hover to wing-borne flight like a conventional airplane then back to hover again. So far we have done this on five flights,” said aerospace engineer Bill Fredericks. “We were ecstatic (Ed – Told you so). Now we’re working on our second goal – to demonstrate that this concept is four times more aerodynamically efficient in cruise than a helicopter.”

Another advantage of the GL-10 is the sound it produces – or lack of – which the research team says is about as quiet as a neighbor mowing the lawn. Once fully developed, it’s believed that the hybrid vehicle could be used for small package delivery, long endurance surveillance for agriculture, mapping and more.

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