NASA's 'Greased Lightning' drone is part chopper, part airplane

Story highlights

  • NASA's successfully tests new 10-engine drone
  • It's designed for unmanned delivery missions

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(CNN)What has 10 engines, can hover like a helicopter and fly like a plane?

Answer: NASA'S latest drone prototype, GL-10.
    Better known by it's pop culture-inspired moniker, Greased Lightning, it is an innovative new concept for an unmanned vehicle (UAV) from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
    The battery-powered drone has a 10-foot (3-meter) wingspan, 10 electric motors (eight on the wings, two on the tail) and weighs 28kg at takeoff. It has a tilt-wing design that allows for vertical takeoff and landing -- similar to existing tiltrotor aircraft like the Bell-Boeing V22 Osprey.
    "All four engines on the left wing are given the same command," said Zach Johns, the prototype's main pilot. "The four engines on the right wing also work in concert. Then the two on the tail receive the same command."
    Successful flight tests have not only demonstrated its hovering capabilities during its vertical takeoff -- the way a helicopter does -- but the team has also triumphed in some of the aerodynamically trickier situations.

    We have liftoff!

    "During the flight tests we successfully transitioned from hover to wing-borne flight like a conventional airplane then back to hover again. So far we have done this on five flights," said Bill Fredericks, one of the aerospace engineers working on the project, in a NASA press release.
    "We were ecstatic. Now we're working on our second goal -- to demonstrate that this concept is four times more aerodynamically efficient in cruise than a helicopter."
    This prototype is the 12th iteration in the developm