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Report: DoD Eyes 'Flying Saucer' UAV

Flying Prototype Passes Early Test

Oh dear... don't let Linn Murphy hear about this. The US Department of Defense is reportedly considering an unmanned aerial vehicle that could cause a spike in reports of "flying saucers" the world over... because it IS a flying saucer.

Though not a true UFO in the Art Bell/1950s B-movie sense, British company GFS Projects now has a flying saucer UAV that does a pretty good job of imitating a "real" alien spacecraft, according to Discovery News.

GFS Director David Steel notes such a design holds several advantages over a traditional airplane or helicopter. The disc-shaped device can take-off and land vertically on any surface... and the disc's outer-edge shields the single propeller, mounted on top of the aircraft, aiding in crashworthiness.

Flaps mounted along the edge control the vehicle's tendency to rotate, Steel adds, and placement of the thrust line allows payloads to be mounted at the aircraft's center of gravity. GFS says the design could also be used for a manned vehicle, as seen below.

"You can take it down to a foot in diameter and we are told it is fully scaleable up to a large-sized craft," said Steel.

The idea of a true, practical flying saucer was originally conceived by Geoff Hatton, according to GFS (for "Geoff's Flying Saucer.")

There are reasons such an aircraft hasn't been seen before, however. Holger Babinsky, associate professor of aerodynamics at the University of Cambridge, says the relatively small fan -- mandated by design constraints -- hurts efficiency.

"That is the number one killer," he said. "The batteries don't last as long because the amount of power you convert into thrust is not so great because the efficiency is low."

But that isn't stopping the DoD, which awarded GFS with a contract earlier this year to demonstrate the craft could hover and manuever. The saucer reportedly passed with flying colors, in winds greater than 10 mph.

GFS is also one of six teams scheduled to compete in the UK Ministry of Defense's "Grand Challenge Program" next July. For that competition, the saucer will be equipped with cameras and infrared sensors to locate hidden threats along a planned course.

FMI: www.dod.mil, www.gfsprojects.co.uk/

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