Military Embedded Systems

DARPA X-plane project progresses to next phase


December 16, 2022

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

DARPA X-plane project progresses to next phase
Graphic: Aurora Flight Sciences

MANASSAS, Va. Aurora Flight Sciences (a subsidiary company of Boeing) has been awarded phases 2 and 3 of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) program, which aims to design, build, and test a novel X-plane that incorporates active flow control (AFC) as a primary design consideration. 

The Aurora’s CRANE entry, according to a statement from the company, uses active flow control (AFC) for multiple effects, including flight control at tactical speeds and enhanced performance during flight.

The experimental aircraft is designed around an AFC system that uses AFC effectors embedded in all flying surfaces to alter the flow of air over an aircraft to change its course and speed instead of using control surfaces such as ailerons, rudders, and flaps.

Graham Drozeski, vice president of government programs at Aurora, said of the project and award: “The CRANE X-plane is designed specifically to explore the effectiveness of AFC technologies at mission-relevant scale and Mach numbers.”

The Aurora announcement noted that the company is now working on a detailed engineering design of its full-scale, 30-foot-wingspan, 7,000-pound uncrewed X-plane and that phase 3 will see the X-plane built at its facilities in Virginia, West Virginia, and Mississippi. Flight testing is set to occur in 2025.

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