There are already a number of drones that take off and land vertically, but switch to faster, more efficient fixed-wing flight once airborne. Working with students from Britain's Cranfield University, BAE Systems engineers have taken that idea and put a whole new spin on it – quite literally.
The BAE/Cranfield team has created a concept for what it calls Adaptable UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles).
Envisioned for use by armed forces within the next few decades, the aircraft would fly with both of their motor/propeller units facing forward when in fixed-wing mode. For take-offs and landings, however, one of those units would rotate around to face backward. This would cause the UAV to convert to rotary wing mode, in which the whole aircraft would spin around on the spot, rising or falling vertically.
As can be seen in the rendering at the top of the page, the drones would also have a large hole in the middle. This would be used in take-offs and landings, as whole swarms of the aircraft would be stacked on mast-like poles, which would run through the middle of them. Those poles would in turn be gyroscopically stabilized, so they would remain stable and upright even when mounted on ships in rough seas, or on moving land vehicles.
For more information on how the technology would work, just watch the video below. And for another example of a collaboration between BAE and Cranfield, check out the fixed-wing DEMON UAV, which maneuvers using nothing but a series of forced-air jets along the trailing edges of its wings.
Source: BAE Systems