Last year, DARPA selected the XV-24A LightningStrike-a transforming craft developed by Aurora Flight Sciences and propelled by 24 ducted fans- to advance in its VTOL X-Planes project. Shortly after, a 350-pound, one-fifth scale prototype of the weird bird took to the skies, but it was only capable of basic takeoff and landing. Until now.
Last month at Webster Outlying Field in Southern Maryland, the subscale vehicle demonstrator (SVD) performed what Aurora calls ‘ outbound and inbound transition flight.” In other words, the transforming part. While this sort of feat is not unheard of-it’s performed by Ospreys and NASA drone prototypes alike-it is a crucial step in scaling up the prototype into its 12,000-pound final form, complete with 61 foot wingspan.
The full-sized version of the craft will be built as an uncrewed drone, with a targeted top speed of 300 to 400 knots, much faster than what helicopters can hope to achieve. A speedy CH-47F Chinook can only manage about 170 knots. How fast will the big version of the XV-24ALightningStrike go? Who knows, but the good news is that, at this rate, we’ll find out.