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New Aircraft On The Edge

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Something we like about aviation is that someone is always thinking about new ways to use it or apply it, and a couple of ideas have been floated recently that stretch current technology, not to mention the imagination. Now the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) spends most of its time (and considerable budget) out on the edge, and its latest invitation to the dreamers and thinkers out there isn't new, but it may be something whose time has come. DARPA is calling for proposals to develop a submersible airplane that can cover 1,l00 nm (the last 100 nm at sea-skimming height), then travel underwater for 12 nm to drop off commandos. Then it has to be able to loiter in the area in seas of up to 13 feet, presumably waiting for pickup. DARPA doesn't say it'll be easy, but it does want to know if it's possible.

Meanwhile, British firm Falx Air is hoping to develop a hybrid electric tiltwing personal aircraft that will go up to 230 mph. The rotors will be powered by electric motors that will get their power from a gasoline-powered generator. An onboard battery will provide the power boost necessary for takeoff. The proposed price of the aircraft, which could weigh as little as 1,000 lbs., is $250,000. The company acknowledges there's a long way to go in getting the project off the ground but claims the technology is ready.

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