It’s not only in the automotive industry that electric engines have developed considerably in recent years. NASA presented the latest version of a concept that has been under development for several years by unveiling a new drone – or UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) – that combines the power of auxiliary batteries with small diesel engines. The aircraft, named GL-10 Greased Lightning is a VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft with an impressive number of engines, 10 in total.
But the biggest surprise is well-hidden inside the fuselage of the plane. The 10 engines are electric, which is common in type copter drones. Instead of batteries, however, the Grease Lightning has two 8HP diesel engines responsible for generating electricity for the 10 engines.
[Image Source: NASA]
The original idea to make the GL-10 a VTOL was to maintain the internal engines in each wing fixed, but only four of them have failed to lift the entire weight of the aircraft. For takeoff and landing, the wings and tail point upward and 10 propellers make the plane rise up like a helicopter. Once airborne, the wings and tail return to the horizontal position of a typical airplane, with the difference that the two rear propellers increase the maneuverability of the GL-10.
The first tests were made on a prototype with a 3-feet wingspan anchored to a cable. The first free flights are scheduled for later this year. This research is being done to analyse the potential of electric propulsion for larger autonomous aircrafts and it seems a matter of time before electricity is taking us to the skies.