Researchers at NASA have developed a revolutionary flying wing aircraft that uses 50% less fuel than standard planes. The new manta ray-esque X-48C is based on the X-48B Blended Wing Body aircraft, which flew 92 flights at NASA Dryden between 2007 and 2010. The X-48C improves upon its predecessor with its low-noise, fuel-efficient hybrid wing body (HWB) design.

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The X-48C uses an extremely efficient type of engine called an ultra-high bypass ratio engine, which the aero engineering teams at NASA say could use half as much fuel as conventional aircraft.  Unfortunately, NASA program manager Fay Collier says that it may take eight to 10 years for the technology to be implemented into conventional aircraft.

The new technology can reduce the weight of an aircraft by 25%, but the flatter structure is much more difficult to build in a way that’s strong enough and light enough to be practical. Engineers are currently experimenting with preformed carbon composite rods to work around this hurdle.

The researchers are currently building a 30-foot-wide, two-level pressurized structure that will be used in an attempt to validate the manufacturing approach. That structure is scheduled to be finished by 2015.


Via Technology Review

Images: NASA