NASA revealed a new prototype drone with the capabilities of a helicopter and airplane. The Greased Lightning or GL-10 is a concept for a future aircraft with the goal to make drones and unmanned planes more efficient in the years to come. It uses 10 engines to maximize speed and mobility.
The prototype was developed at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Aerospace engineers Bill Fredericks, David North and Zack Johns are some of the members of the team that developed the drone. As they worked on the project, they had many different ideas about how it could be utilized.
“It could be used for small package delivery or vertical take-off and landing, long endurance surveillance for agriculture, mapping and other applications. A scaled-up version — much larger than what we are testing now — would make also a great one- to four-person-size personal air vehicle,” Fredericks said.
With news of Amazon starting a drone delivery service (Amazon Prime Air) to its customers, The Greased Lightning’s innovation may make attract other companies to join the drone delivery service.
According to Kathy Barnstorff for the NASA Langley Research Center, “The GL-10 is currently in the design and testing phase. The initial thought was to develop a 20-foot wingspan (6.1 meters) aircraft powered by hybrid diesel/electric engines, but the team started with smaller versions for testing, built by rapid prototyping.”
The plane is also very quiet even though there are 10 engines at work. Fredericks goes on to say that the plane is quieter than a lawn mower.
The Greased Lightning prototype will be the main attraction at the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International 2015 conference in Atlanta through Thursday.