Aurora Flight Sciences Selected by DARPA for Phase 2 of Revolutionary Active Flow Control X-Plane Project

DARPA has awarded Aurora Flight Sciences with a contract to move forward with the detailed design and development phase of the Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) program. The program, which aims to create an X-plane demonstrator capable of flying without traditional exterior wing and tail controls, successfully completed its Phase 1 preliminary design, resulting in an innovative testbed aircraft that utilizes active flow control (AFC) to generate control forces in wind tunnel tests.

During Phase 2, Aurora Flight Sciences will focus on the detailed design and development of flight software and controls, leading up to a critical design review of the X-plane demonstrator. The contract also includes a Phase 3 option, in which DARPA plans to fly a 7,000-pound X-plane that addresses the two primary technical challenges of incorporating AFC into full-scale aircraft and relying on it for controlled flight.

The demonstrator aircraft will feature unique, modular wing configurations that allow for future integration of advanced technologies for flight testing by either DARPA or potential transition partners. The AFC technology suite holds multiple opportunities for aircraft performance improvements such as elimination of moving control surfaces, drag reduction, high angle of attack flight, thicker wings for structural efficiency and increased fuel capacity, and simplified high-lift systems.

“We are confident about completing the design and flight test of a demonstration aircraft with AFC as the primary design consideration,” said the CRANE Program Manager Richard Wlezien. “With a modular wing section and modular AFC effectors, the CRANE X-plane has the potential to live on as a national test asset long after the CRANE program has concluded.”

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