NASA’s ‘Greased Lightning’ drone merges helicopter and plane technology

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Is it a helicopter? Is it a plane? NASA has developed a 10-engine electric vehicle that can take off like a helicopter but fly a plane.

The prototype, dubbed ‘Greased Lightning,’ or ‘GL-10’ is initially being developed as a drone, according to NASA but could eventually become a manned vehicle.

“We have a couple of options that this concept could be good for,” said Bill Fredericks, NASA aerospace engineer, in a statement. “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.”

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The drone, which was developed by a team at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., has a 10-foot wingspan, eight electric motors on the wings, two electric motors on the tail and weighs 62 pounds at take off.

Greased Lightning has successfully transitioned from hovering like a helicopter to plane-style wing-borne flight during tests.

Much quieter than a traditional aircraft, NASA engineers say that Greased Lightning is quieter than a neighbor mowing the lawn with a gas-powered motor.

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Greased Lightning is on show at this week’s Unmanned Systems 2015 show in Atlanta.

The latest and greatest drone technologies have been on show in Atlanta this week. The Federal Aviation Administration also unveiled its Pathfinder program, which will study how drones are used for newsgathering, as well as in the agriculture and transport industries.

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