[Homestead] Whirl spyplane can hover16 miles high, for four days.

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Mon Sep 13 20:41:01 EDT 2004


    NewScientist.com

*Spinning spy plane could hover for days*

17:36 09 September 04
NewScientist.com news service

An unmanned spinning spy plane that could hover above a location for 
days gathering intelligence has been developed by US researchers.

The prototype vehicle, known as "the Whirl", was constructed by 
researchers at US defence and aerospace company Raytheon in Tucson, Arizona.

The aircraft has four fixed wings, each measuring three metres long and 
emanating from a central hub. Each wing has its own propeller on top and 
is spaced at 90° to its neighbour. Everything works together to make the 
entire craft revolve.

The wings also have an upturned manoeuvrable aerofoil at each tip, 
enabling the craft to maintain a stable hover - fulfilling a similar 
function to a helicopter's rear rotor - and to direct its movement.

Raytheon researcher, John Liebsch, described it as a "cross between a 
ceiling fan and a sailboat", and says the design should be more stable 
and power-efficient than a conventional helicopter.


*Anti-aircraft missiles*

He believes that the Whirl could ascend to an altitude of up to 16 km - 
high enough to avoid anti-aircraft missiles - and hover there for up to 
four days. The US military's Global Hawk drone can stay aloft for 36 
hours at an altitude of up to 20 km.

Independent experts describe the prototype as a unique proposition. 
"There seem to be more new design approaches to uncrewed vehicles these 
days than you can shake a stick at," says Ken Munson, editor of the 
UK-based military publication Jane's Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and 
Targets. "It’s certainly an innovative design."

But Munson suggests that the vehicle will have to undergo more testing 
before it proves its worth. "The real test will come out of doors, I 
suspect," he told *New Scientist*.

Its creators say that the Whirl should be ideally suited to tracking 
moving objects on the ground, as it can linger in one position in the 
air. A non-hovering drone, by comparison, has to adjust for its own 
trajectory before it can accurately track another moving target.

So far the Whirl has only been tested inside a hanger, but preparations 
are underway for open-air tests. A full version of the drone should cost 
around $1 million to develop, and Raytheon has asked the Pentagon to 
provide this funding.

A spokesperson for Raytheon refused to provide any further information 
about the prototype at this time.

Will Knight

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