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Transportation Technology

Funky Flying Wing Rotates 90 Degrees To Go Supersonic 122

Posted by Soulskill
from the take-it-for-a-spin dept.
Big Hairy Ian writes "An aircraft that resembles a four-point ninja star could go into supersonic mode by simply turning 90 degrees in midair. The unusual 'flying wing' concept has won $100,000 in NASA funding to trying becoming a reality for future passenger jet travel. The supersonic, bidirectional flying wing idea comes from a team headed by Ge-Chen Zha, an aerospace engineer at Florida State University. He said the fuel-efficient aircraft could reach supersonic speeds without the thunderclap sound (PDF) produced by a sonic boom — a major factor that previously limited where the supersonic Concorde passenger jet could fly over populated land masses."
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Funky Flying Wing Rotates 90 Degrees To Go Supersonic

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  • Seriously? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CompMD (522020)

    A link to an article that makes you answer a poll about the RNC before letting you RTFA? Lame.

    First Post.

    • by Moses48 (1849872)

      Wait, there's an article behind that? I thought they just linked to an add site.

    • Re:Seriously? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Antipater (2053064) on Friday August 31, 2012 @10:52AM (#41190987)
      I could RTFA fine. Dunno what poll you're talking about.
      • Do you have Adblock or NoScript?

        I didn't see the pool either, but that doesn't mean it's not there.

        • Do you have Adblock or NoScript?

          I didn't see the pool either, but that doesn't mean it's not there.

          Nope. And I'm running IE, too. I do have a non-American IP address (for some IT reason that company HQ across the pond never explained), so maybe they figured I wouldn't care about American politics or the RNC.

    • by istartedi (132515)

      There was a button. I clicked the first one. There was a rating thing. I clicked the center star. Oh, so that's what it was about? Yay for scientificly valid poling techniques. /sarc.

    • Same here, so I didn't RTFA.

      After reading the comments below I disabled Javascript and there was the article.

      Comments I read were disabling ad blockers and such...
      I find when I can't copy from a page I'll disable Javascript then copy what I want.

      I know I shouldn't run javascript, but all the websites require it now
    • A link to an article that makes you answer a poll about the RNC before letting you RTFA? Lame.

      First Post.

      The two questions they ask me were both about buying back to school supplies. Nothing political.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Zha is at the University of Miami.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A click farming site is now Slashdot's idea of a story?

  • Better Link (Score:5, Informative)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday August 31, 2012 @10:52AM (#41190993) Journal

    Here is one that doesn't make you answer a lame question:

    http://www.livescience.com/22828-supersonic-flying-wing-nasa.html [livescience.com]

    It would be one thing if the "innovationwhatever.com" site wrote the article. They didn't. Yet they feel the need to try to profit of it. Utter douchebags.

    • Re:Better Link (Score:5, Informative)

      by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday August 31, 2012 @10:54AM (#41191023) Journal

      I retract the part about the site not writing the article. Apparently they did. I still find it annoying, however. I may go back and answer their poll as I like to encourage science writing...

    • by bbbaldie (935205)
      I'm on Kubuntu, running Firefox with AB+. I have no clue what annoying question you're talking about.

      Re "they feel the need to try to profit of it. Utter douchebags", that's the way the interwebs works without putting a quarter in first, Charlie. Site traffic = $$$, and I don't have a problem with that. Stealing content is one thing, posting an article with links to the original is good for everyone. Of course, in this case, you just jumped to an incorrect conclusion.

      Seriously, are you using IE or someth

    • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Friday August 31, 2012 @12:25PM (#41192165)

      In my twelve+ years lurking on Slashdot, this is the first time I've ever seen a lot of complaining about the actual content of an article.

      • by idontgno (624372)

        Wait, wait.

        TFA has content? WTF? When did this happen?

        This might force me to re-evaluate my deeply-held resistance to RTFA. All these year. And finally, an article to RTF.

  • by Revotron (1115029) on Friday August 31, 2012 @10:53AM (#41191015)
    That'll get them one workstation, one software license of their choice, and a PhD student for a year, tops.

    Also, wouldn't a flying-wing aircraft designed for passenger travel be incredibly inefficient in terms of space usage? Look at the B2 - most of its body is the wing and engine structure and a tiny cockpit for 2 crew members, plus a bomb bay. Imagine trying to scale up the B2 to fit 100+ people - it'd be gargantuan. It could handle the weight just fine (the B2 carries 50,000lbs of ordinance already), but to fit that many people comfortably would be quite a feat. IANA aerospace engineer so please correct me if I'm wrong.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @10:57AM (#41191069)

      You are not packing people right, please refer to http://www.ryanair.com for more information.

    • Perhaps that workstation will be for CAD design and computer simulation? The design itself is perhaps little more than a sketch at the moment but with a bit of funding they could determine if it is more promising.

      It looks like a fairly clever idea. With the funds it might lead to something - but as the article says, this is something for 20 years in the future.
    • by Chirs (87576) on Friday August 31, 2012 @11:05AM (#41191149)

      So you need big enough wings to support them.

      For passenger travel you scale it up enough that the people can sit inside part of the wing area. Look up the "blended wing body" design.

    • by Antipater (2053064) on Friday August 31, 2012 @11:18AM (#41191317)

      Also, wouldn't a flying-wing aircraft designed for passenger travel be incredibly inefficient in terms of space usage? Look at the B2 - most of its body is the wing and engine structure and a tiny cockpit for 2 crew members, plus a bomb bay. Imagine trying to scale up the B2 to fit 100+ people - it'd be gargantuan. It could handle the weight just fine (the B2 carries 50,000lbs of ordinance already), but to fit that many people comfortably would be quite a feat. IANA aerospace engineer so please correct me if I'm wrong.

      Well, a lot of the B-2's volume seems to be taken by the engines, which in this design are sticking out the top on rotating poles (which presents major design issues by itself). So that's a lot more volume to stick people inside. Moreover, the thing has the point sticking out backwards as well, whereas the B-2 doesn't. So that adds a lot of interior volume. Also remember that this won't have to be stealth, so that frees up a lot of design decisions.

      Boeing has been trying for years to make a flying-wing version of the C-130, so obviously this guy isn't the only one thinking of using a flying wing as a cargo carrier.

    • This looks like a job for Kickstarter.
    • by dywolf (2673597)

      northrop investigated this years ago with mockups of their xb35 and yb49 fitted out with a passenger cabin. they couldnt get any industry interest. the room is there potentially, as flying wings tend be quite thick. of course teh B2 isnt engineered to carry people. a bomb bay chamber is mounted low, at the skin boundary, whereas a passenger cabin wouldn't want to cross that boundary naturally. the potential is there though. likely you'd see a slightly fewer passengers for an aircraft of the same weight, but

      • by dywolf (2673597)

        addendum to myself: also keep in mind the B2 was designed for stealth, so everything, particularly the engines, are buried deep inside the wing, and shrouded/redirected to prevent radar energy from hitting the turbine blades (big potential source of radar reflection), and diffuse/cool the exhaust enough to reduce its signature without affecting the thrust too much.

    • by Shotgun (30919)

      You are completely wrong. The thickness of the flying wing is enough to give WAY more than enough headroom, and it is a wide open structure. Hell, converting a B2 into a passenger plane would allow for stadium seating during the inflight movie.

  • by gninnor (792931) on Friday August 31, 2012 @10:56AM (#41191053)

    Rotation of the thrust should be interesting. Wonder what the change in perspective does to the pilot and passengers and how fast the rotation is.

    And no, I didn't read the slideshow.

    • The pilots will be fine. It'll give them a chance to live out their lifelong fantasies of switching from a normal plane to the Millennium Falcon.
      • I'm imagining them sprinting down the aisle to get from the West cockpit to the North one.

        And then the lawyers and the whiplash claims...

    • I guess at supersonic speeds you really don't need to see where you're going.
    • Re:Rotation (Score:4, Insightful)

      by perpenso (1613749) on Friday August 31, 2012 @11:17AM (#41191309)

      Wonder what the change in perspective does to the pilot and passengers ...

      Makes the pilots feel like passengers. Makes half the passengers feel like pilots, the other half feel like tail gunners, refueling boom operators, etc.

      ... and how fast the rotation is.

      Slow enough that the forces are a fraction of a G.

    • Re:Rotation (Score:5, Informative)

      by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday August 31, 2012 @11:23AM (#41191371) Homepage Journal
      I know this is asking entirely too much, for which I apologize, but it really helps if you RTFA:

      Jet engines located on top of the aircraft in concept illustrations appear to rotate independently of the aircraft so that they can always point forward in flight.

      • by gninnor (792931)

        Yep, I got that much from the pages of the PDF that locked up my browser. I would think a thrust diverted like that of a jump jet would be easier. Note that it says "appear". Honestly, after the PDF and the comments on about filling out a poll with the other link, I just found that I wasn't as interested as I started out.

        • I would think a thrust diverted like that of a jump jet would be easier

          I believe that to which you are referring is better known as thrust vectoring [wikipedia.org]

          I concur, the idea of a static propulsion system attached to a movable passenger compartment does seem outrageously complicated, though admittedly, IANAAE (I Am Not An Aerospace Engineer).

    • The acceleration felt by passengers during the rotation would be less than .1 G. It seems like it would be a little disorienting to the pilots though, maybe they shutter the windows and use cameras on the side of the aircraft now facing forward to project a view of what it would look like if they were still at the "front" of the plane.

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      I see design complexity. I dislike design complexity, particularly in aircraft. it causes headaches.

  • Minimal moving parts, save for the plane itself.
  • Wow. (Score:5, Funny)

    by eexaa (1252378) on Friday August 31, 2012 @10:59AM (#41191099) Homepage

    I was still kindof worried when the presentation started to compare the concept to a frisbee.

  • by rossdee (243626) on Friday August 31, 2012 @11:01AM (#41191117)

    Which direction does the wing rotate 90 degrees?

    In the past some planes could achieve supersonic flight by rotating the whole plane 90 degrees (from level flight) Getting back to subsonic flight was sometimes a bit more difficult...

    • by perpenso (1613749) on Friday August 31, 2012 @11:11AM (#41191221)

      Which direction does the wing rotate 90 degrees?

      In the past some planes could achieve supersonic flight by rotating the whole plane 90 degrees (from level flight) Getting back to subsonic flight was sometimes a bit more difficult...

      In those circumstances getting subsonic was trivial, just a matter of waiting a brief time period.

    • The entire aircraft rotates, not just the wing. It is a fixed wing aircraft. More specifically, the aircraft just performs a yaw while the engines on top rotate to continue pointing in the direction of travel. After the yaw is complete the structures that used to be the "wings" are now pointing forward and back, and the structures that used to point forward and back, including the cockpit, are now the "wings".

      • by hurfy (735314)

        I wonder what a crosswind on the 'formerly a trailing edge' side does ?

        • by swillden (191260)

          I wonder what a crosswind on the 'formerly a trailing edge' side does ?

          Well, it would seem to me that while in subsonic mode the crosswind would potentially produce lift on the supersonic wings, but those wings are quite small and flat and don't produce a great deal of lift (unless the crosswind is several hundred miles per hour, in which case there are bigger problems). While in supersonic mode, the crosswind would produce much more lift, but that would also occur at high altitudes where there's plenty of room for an unexpected climb/drop. Actually, it would probably fly su

  • Funky Flying Wing Rotates 90 Degrees To Go Supersonic

    ...a reality for future passenger jet travel

    I can hear the promo jingle now...

    "Funky flying wing, y'all
    Funky, funky flying wing"

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by CanHasDIY (1672858)
      With apologies to George Clinton:

      We got tha funk,
      gotta have that funk (yea)
      We got the funk,
      That supersonic funk
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You wanna know the difference between the 1960s and now? In the '60s they built stuff, now we draw stuff on computers.
  • Russia (Score:4, Funny)

    by zlives (2009072) on Friday August 31, 2012 @11:27AM (#41191431)

    In other news, Russia announces it has begun working on a radical new ultrasonic bomber design.

    in an unrelated story, the entire staff at NASA was found snickering for no obvious reason.

  • by WilliamBaughman (1312511) on Friday August 31, 2012 @11:30AM (#41191459)
    The only problem with sonic booms from the Concorde was that Boeing's own supersonic airliner [wikipedia.org] never worked.
    • by dywolf (2673597)

      "Never worked" is rather broad and misleading. And many of the things developed for the aircraft are now standard on airliners, such as teh super critical airfoil.

      • I guess you're right. I shouldn't have said, "never worked." I should have said, "never entered commercial production." I'm just upset that Concorde wasn't allowed to enter super-sonic speed close enough to the US continent to be profitable long-term and folded before I was old enough to afford a ticket.
  • I don't see that being a very popular option. Although if it is as expensive to fly as the Concorde was, there won't be a cattle class for us 99%'ers so maybe everyone will just have two seats (for the price of 20!)?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Shotgun (30919)

      The Concorde was not profitable because Boeing got the mission it was designed for (Europe to Las Angeles) shut down by buying themselves a law.

      • by thrich81 (1357561)

        Max Range of Concorde = 7250 km (from Wikipedia)
        Distance London to Los Angeles = 8750 km
        Not enough range relegated the Concorde to being a niche product; it couldn't do the transpacific routes where you really wanted the speed. And on the really long routes a subsonic aircraft that didn't have to stop to refuel could probably give it good competition for total travel time.

      • The Concorde was not profitable because Boeing got the mission it was designed for (Europe to Las Angeles) shut down by buying themselves a law.

        A few months ago on this very site there was a story that mentioned the Concorde burned more fuel just getting off the ground than a 707 would burn on an entire trip from London to Amsterdam. Couple that to the fact that the Concorde sat very few people and you realize the fuel cost per passenger was enormous.

        Having a mandatory crew of three didn't help much either.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Why would anyone care? During supersonic flight you're going to be going straight and level so you probably wouldn't even notice.

  • by aristotle-dude (626586) on Friday August 31, 2012 @11:59AM (#41191799)

    Doesn't this remind anyone of a Cylon basestar, specifically, from the reboot series?

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday August 31, 2012 @12:16PM (#41192043) Journal

    The article is nearly useless. Even bringing up scramjet testing in such an article is ridiculous namedropping, and anyone who has actually seen the X51 knows that is has nothing to do with this project except that neither will be flying in this planet in the current state of development.

    There are so many questionable things about this concept, I can only assume that Mr. Zha has a second degree in grant writing or bullshittery to get and actual grant for research. And yet the linked presentation is, aside from some math simulation output data, poorer in content than at least half of the undergraduate senior projects in my Aero class back in the early 90s. One of the conclusions is "transition challenging, expected to be stable due to dual symmetric planform similar to flying Frisbee". Holy shit - that may very well be one of the most critical parts of the design. If you can't transition, you simply have a plane with the entire thrust force on a gimbal which can either be subsonic or supersonic. They other issue is the horrifically draggy airfoil shape required for subsonic flight due to the need to maintain symmetry in the supersonic mode. Their solution is either air injection into the flow and/or or slat deployment at speed to produce a proper lifting body - but that's an amazingly draggy way to accomplish such feat.

    I wanted to like this - so much that I did read through the broken-english slides to see what novel concepts they discovered. Sadly, this is really a master's level, one or two semester examination of shock wave perceptibly reduction, and at some point somebody's non-technical room mate told them it looked more like an airplane if they flew it sideways.

  • IAAAE (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @12:22PM (#41192111)

    I think the most challenging part about this aircraft is vehicle dynamics. For stable flight the center of mass needs to be forward of the 1/4 chord section of the subsonic wing, and for supersonic flight it should be forward of the 1/2 chord section of the supersonic wing. That alone means this is plane is inherently unstable and flies like a leaf from a tree without software compensation. This doesn't begin to address the transition from subsonic to supersonic, where at some point you must have flow at 45 degrees over both supersonic and subsonic surfaces, stably; the plane would have a tendency to pitch and roll under this maneuver.

    I am an aerospace engineer..

    • by leftover (210560)

      This doesn't begin to address the transition from subsonic to supersonic, where at some point you must have flow at 45 degrees over both supersonic and subsonic surfaces, stably; the plane would have a tendency to pitch and roll under this maneuver.

      Transition was the part that made me wince too. Slow rotation while moving at transonic speed -- Gulp.

      • by Shatrat (855151)

        Does it mention making the transition at transonic speeds? I skimmed the PDF and I was assuming the transition would be made sometime between takeoff and crossing mach 1.

    • by binsamp (1545097)
      No need to rotate while supersonic. Do it subsonic then accelerate. FBW will handle any control problems. See the F117 as an example. The big problem is the engines. They are mounted on the wing and rotate as the wing changes orientation. They operate in parallel for landing and takeoff, but after the wing rotates 90 degrees, they will now be in tandem, one behind the other. This means the exhaust of the forward engine will feed the intake of the other engine, causing it to overheat or possibly fail due
    • by giorgist (1208992)
      So what if it was a flying saucer shape, where the rim/ring it self smoothly transitions between the two profiles? There is no point to the star shape then.
  • Use normal ol' turbo-fans built into the longer wings for take off and landing in the "wide" orientation.

    Then, once at about Mach .9 or so, you spin into the "narrow" orientation, where Ramjets built into the shorter wings take over and accelerate the whole mess to Mach 3, 4, 5, 6...

  • I recall a few years ago reading about Boeing looking at a blended-wing/lifting body design, the X-48. They went as far as producing mock ups of the interior for passenger variants and found that travelers, for whatever reason, didn't like the configuration. This concept takes that layout and make it a whole lot worse with direction of seating changing in flight. Isn't it the same reason seats face forward instead of backwards despite being safer?

    For the record, I think people can be rather stupid about tha

    • by T-Bucket (823202)

      The reality is, if the ticket is $25 cheaper than flying on a regular airliner, the self-loading cargo will gladly book that flight.

  • 20120037751 [uspto.gov], filed 26 April 2010. Not yet issued. . . .

  • Swell idea, except:

    Both sets of wings have to be strong enough to act like wings- that requires spars and stuff that are usually run through the center of lift. That makes it difficult to fit in stuff like people and cargo.

    You can't sweep the wings at your typical 20 to 40 degree angle, which limits your top speed in either mode.

    You can't have wings with the usual asymettrical front-back tapers, limiting your lift and lift/drag characteristics.

    You can't have a tail, which makes stability and control very

  • What advantage could this possibly have over the variable-sweep wing style, such as used by the f-14? I expect this contraption would actually end up with more moving parts than even the f-14 has.

    It seems to me variable-sweep is the ideal in terms of fuel consumption and other factors... not sure why this style is not being pursued these days...

  • I swear I saw this kind of shit in Popular Science or Popular Mechanics when they both still painted their covers.

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