The United States has begun building its first aircraft to demonstrate a new method of flight control that does not use external moving parts. It is expected to make its first flight in 2025.
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has selected Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences to build a full-scale unmanned X-65 aircraft to demonstrate the feasibility of using active flow control actuators (AFC) for primary flight control . This award is the third phase of the Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with New Effectors (CRANE) project.
In December 1903, the Wright brothers flew the world’s first fully controllable airplane, using wing deformation to achieve successful flight. Since then, nearly all aircraft have used a system of movable external control surfaces for flight control.
and aircraft yaw. Eliminating external moving parts promises to reduce weight and complexity and improve performance.
The X-65 will be equipped with two sets of control actuators: conventional flaps and rudder, and AFC effectors integrated into all lifting surfaces. This will minimize risk and maximize the program’s understanding of the effectiveness of controls. The aircraft is based on the performance of conventional control surfaces; successive tests will selectively block moving surfaces and use AFC effectors instead.
The new aircraft, which weighs more than three tons, has a wingspan of 10 meters and can reach speeds of Mach 0.7. DARPA reported in a statement that its weight, size and speed are similar to military trainer aircraft, making flight test results directly relevant to real-world aircraft designs.