Aircraft

ADIFO: The hyper-agile, omnidirectional, supersonic flying saucer

ADIFO: The hyper-agile, omnidi...
ADIFO could resurrect the idea of flying saucers, promising extreme speed, efficiency and aerial agility
ADIFO could resurrect the idea of flying saucers, promising extreme speed, efficiency and aerial agility
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The ADIFO prototype in wind tunnel testing
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The ADIFO prototype in wind tunnel testing
Side thrusters can produce extreme and very sudden yaw movements by firing on opposed sides
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Side thrusters can produce extreme and very sudden yaw movements by firing on opposed sides
Sudden sideways movement can be achieved by firing both thrusters on one side
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Sudden sideways movement can be achieved by firing both thrusters on one side
The ADIFO team working with the prototype
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The ADIFO team working with the prototype
ADIFO could resurrect the idea of flying saucers, promising extreme speed, efficiency and aerial agility
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ADIFO could resurrect the idea of flying saucers, promising extreme speed, efficiency and aerial agility
The many different directions in which ADIFO can produce thrust
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The many different directions in which ADIFO can produce thrust
A poster developed for the 2018 Salon International Des Inventions in Geneva outlines ADIFO's capabilities
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A poster developed for the 2018 Salon International Des Inventions in Geneva outlines ADIFO's capabilities

At low speed, it operates like a quadcopter, at high speed, it's a jet-propelled, highly efficient supersonic aircraft whose entire body acts as a low-drag wing. Those are the claims of the Romanian creators of this flying saucer that's designed to offer unprecedented aerial agility across a broad range of speeds.

ADIFO, or the All-DIrectional Flying Object, is a flying machine designed "to change the actual paradigm of flight," according to engineer and inventor Razvan Sabie. Sabie worked with accomplished aerodynamicist Iosif Taposu (Senior Scientist at Romania's National Institute for Aerospatial Research, and former Head of Theoretical Aerodynamics at the National Aviation Institute) to develop the concept, and has built a working prototype with a 1.2-meter (3.9-ft) diameter for testing.

Simply put, ADIFO is a disc-shaped aircraft whose entire surface is a wing. Specifically, it's shaped to mimic the back half of a dolphin airfoil, radiating out in all directions from the center. The outer edge tapers to a thin ring, making it extremely slippery in horizontal flight.

The ADIFO team working with the prototype
The ADIFO team working with the prototype

VTOL and slow speed maneuvers are handled by four ducted fans, letting the ADIFO operate like a regular quadcopter drone. There are also two jets on the back (replaced by additional electric fans on the prototype) that provide horizontal thrust, and which can also vector individually to achieve a high degree of agility in level flight. At high speeds, small discs can come out and cover over the quadcopter fans for an even smoother profile, and likewise the legs can retract.

The final propulsive touch is a set of two lateral thrust nozzles pointed out to each side, which operate like the reaction control system thrusters on a spacecraft. In horizontal flight, these allow the ADIFO to rapidly push itself sideways in either direction, or to rotate extremely quickly as it flies. That, according to Sabie, gives it maneuvering capabilities unmatched by anything else in the air, without the need for separate wings, ailerons, rudders or flaps.

There's more: it'll fly upside down, either in quad mode or in horizontal flight, with the right jets it'll be extremely efficient as it goes transonic and supersonic, and Sabie says the team's modeling suggests there will be no traditional sonic boom created when it does.

The many different directions in which ADIFO can produce thrust
The many different directions in which ADIFO can produce thrust

While the prototype is obviously unmanned and radio controlled, the ADIFO team claims it has the potential to democratize supersonic flight if it gets built into a single or multi-seat manned aircraft with a hybrid electric/jet propulsion system. It'll be interesting to see how the team builds pilot visibility into the mix, and what sort of control scheme you'll need to handle the flying saucer's variety of flight modes and control options.

It's a fascinating idea, and could clearly offer some mind-bending acrobatic flight capabilities once the wrinkles are ironed out. There's certainly nothing else out there that can hover and dart about like a drone, while also offering extreme high-speed performance as well as the ability to spin wildly or suddenly produce thrust in five different directions at speed – not to mention potentially employing the main ducted fans to tilt or even flip the aircraft in horizontal flight. The mind boggles just thinking about what this could do in the hands of a well-trained pilot – as well as how treacherous it could be for the ham-fisted.

At the same time, it doesn't seem like a ludicrously far-fetched thing to get built. There are plenty of manned electric multirotors in development, with more or less the same kinds of capabilities ADIFO promises in low-speed flight. Those things are happening, nobody is in any doubt. The vectored thrusters on the back end are far from new, jet propulsion is more common and reliable than ever, and there's nothing about the tapered body shape that looks impossible or even super difficult to build. ADIFO might need to consider additional ducted fans, or contra-rotating coaxial props, for redundancy, but it certainly doesn't look impossible.

Sabie and Taposu are looking for partners to take ADIFO into the next stages of development. Check the aircraft out in the video below.

Source: ADIFO Aircraft

ADIFO presentation movie

27 comments
highlandboy
So all these claims and graphs, including supersonic profiles and they can generate that from a slow wind tunnel and a rudimentary small scale operational model. Major airlines are going to go broke if they don’t get these skills. Why spend millions in testing and product development when you can do it as simple as these guys.
minivini
Highlandboy - the cost for testing and prototype building at their current stage is very inexpensive and low risk. The real cost comes during certification of prototypes with government agencies, larger scale craft, pilot testing, software and avionics integration, and a litany of airframe component testing that won’t be built of fiberglass in a garage. It’s also not clear that the vectored thrusters are fully operational or the lateral and vertical nozzles. While this is a very cool and exciting concept, it is potentially one of the most expensive aircraft yet to actually make airworthiness certification due to its completely unique design. Certification bodies will literally have to invent new methods of testing to get this thing into production, and quite probably develop new metrics by which they can measure safety/performance parameters. This thing will take years and unimaginable capital to ever see anything beyond UAV use, and even then it’ll cost a fortune to develop for any use other than hobbyist model flight.
BrianK56
I could see this at 120 feet in diameter. It will most likely be the transportation of the future.
Glenn™
And when you have a failure it will drop like a rock. Safety parachute? I'd still rather have glide capabilities to ensure a safe landing.
Cryptonoetic
The only limit to maneuverability is my imagination? I'm afraid the limits of my imagination greatly exceed the limits of my physiology.
mediabeing
At this point, I'm laughing. I hope my laughter will, someday, be turned to awe and respect. Right now, I think it's mainly poop.
Fast Eddie
Supersonic? Maybe dropping from 50,000 meters to 25,000 meters, but otherwise....ya gotta be kidding.
guzmanchinky
Aliens have been doing this since the 60's. I know, I've been to the museum in Rockwell... :) But seriously, just when you think you've seen it all in aviation, something radical comes along. Kudos to the dreamers!
Grunchy
I guess "all direction flying object" could describe a helicopter. Sudden yaw change, sudden lateral movement - those sound like uncomfortable and undesirable maneuvers. Supersonic - I think I'd prefer that description prefaced with "safe", but this article hadn't mentioned anything at all about safety. I'm trying to think of what advantage or capability this form provides, like maybe it has improved efficiency, but it doesn't really seem to have any advantage of any kind! I'd say if you want to design something new you might start "well here's some disadvantages we want to improve, or some new capabilities we want to provide" and then figure out what new technology can do that. This is an example of putting the cart before the horse, perhaps?
windykites
This will give rise to a new crop of UFO sightings. Well done to the designers! Comments here are not encouraging. Remember what early planes looked like. This is streets ahead of anything else.