DARPA Moves Forward on X-65 Technology Demonstrator

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artist rendering of X-65 unmanned vehicle
Artist's Rendering, DARPA - Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) program

January 17, 2024 | Originally published by DARPA on January 3, 2024

DARPA has selected Aurora Flight Sciences to build a full-scale X-plane to demonstrate the viability of using active flow control (AFC) actuators for primary flight control. The award is Phase 3 of the Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) program.

In December 1903, the Wright brothers flew the world’s first fully controllable aircraft, which used wing warping to successfully achieve flight. Virtually every aircraft since then has used a system of movable, external control surfaces for flight control.

The X-65 breaks this century-old design paradigm for flight control by using jets of air from a pressurized source to shape the flow of air over the aircraft surface, with AFC effectors on several surfaces to control the plane’s roll, pitch, and yaw. Eliminating external moving parts is expected to reduce weight and complexity and improve performance.