While NASA is well known for their space work, they're also making some significant developments in drone and flight development.
For example, the US space agency recently developed a new unmanned aerial vehicle they call the Greased Lightening, or "GL-10" for short. The GL-10 has a set of 10 engines that it uses to stay in the air. NASA placed eight of the engines on its wings, and two on the tail. But what really makes this drone interesting is its ability to take off vertically. "For take-off and landing, this clever plane points its wings up and hovers like a helicopter. Once airborne, the wings tilt forward and the drone switches to airplane mode. At least, that's what NASA has been hoping would happen" reports Gizmodo.
Other attempts at multiple-mode engines have had some difficulties. For example, the V-22 Osprey uses a similar engine design to get into the air. However, it had some difficulties a year ago when it couldn't get in the air while carrying a weapon. This meant that the plane could only be used to transport men and supplies and had to fly with an escort. However, the Department of Defense was able to test the Osprey with a set of missiles that make it suitable for combat.
While many would expect the GL-10 to have similar issues, NASA Langley Research Center posted a video on Youtube that showed the UAV transitioning between the two flight modes while it was in the air.
"During the flight tests we successfully transitioned from hover to wing-borne flight like a conventional airplane then back to hover again. So far we have done this on five flights," says the engineer in charge of the GL-10 "We were ecstatic. Now we're working on our second goal -- to demonstrate that this concept is four times more aerodynamically efficient in cruise than a helicopter."
If the drone's trials go well, it's likely that we'll see the UAV used for reconnaissance, moving supplies, and more.