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PHOTO CAPTION: DARPA Lightning Strike VTOL UAV concept

DARPA Imagines Electric VTOL

It's just a concept for now, but a combination of 24 ducted electric fan motors and a 4,000 hp turbine engine could make this VTOL recon UAV feasible someday soon.

Published: 09-Mar-2016

Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft offer numerous tactical advantages to the military, as has been demonstrated as far back as the Korean War, which saw the first large scale deployment of helicopters. Today's American military continues to rely on the technology as seen in the state-of-the-art, three-quarter billion dollar F35B Lightning II and the V22 Osprey.

Now the US Defense Advanced Research and Project Agency (DARPA) is taking a serious look at how to incorporate electric propulsion systems into future military aircraft. The Lightning Strike VTOL UAV is just the latest iteration of that trend. Its 24 electric ducted fan motors, similar in concept to the AirBus E-Fan, which flew the English Channel last year, would give the Lightning Strike the ability to takeoff and land vertically. Then as it rotated its wings and front canard, it could achieve speeds in level flight thought to be between 300-400 mph.

The DARPA video below illustrates the concept. Envisioned as being able to carry payloads up to 40% of its gross takeoff weight, its turbine engine would generate a whopping 3MW or 3 million watts of electric power.

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