Military Embedded Systems

X-65 tech demonstrator moves forward for DARPA


January 04, 2024

Dan Taylor

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

X-65 tech demonstrator moves forward for DARPA
Image courtesy DARPA

ARLINGTON, Virginia. DARPA has progressed to the third phase of its Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) program, and Aurora Flight Sciences will now build a full-scale X-plane, the X-65, which will employ active flow control (AFC) actuators as its primary flight control method, the agency reports.

This advancement marks a major departure from traditional aviation design, which relies on external, movable control surfaces for flight management. The X-65 will instead use jets of air from pressurized sources to manipulate airflow over the aircraft's surface and control roll, pitch, and yaw without the need for external moving parts, the statement reads. DARPA hopes this approach will reduce the aircraft's weight and complexity while enhancing performance.

Designed with a diamond-like wing shape, the X-65 will feature both traditional flaps and rudders, as well as AFC effectors across all lifting surfaces -- a dual system that serves to both mitigate risks and enhance the program's understanding of control effectiveness, the statement continues.

Weighing over 7,000 pounds and with a wingspan of 30 feet, the unmanned X-65 is capable of reaching speeds up to Mach 0.7, DARPA says.

Aurora Flight Sciences has commenced the fabrication of the X-plane, with the X-65's rollout scheduled for early 2025 and its first flight planned for the subsequent summer, the statement adds.

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