DARPA's experimental, vertical takeoff X-Plane looks like a cutting-edge UFO

It might be a few years until they’re zipping through the sky, but DARPA is developing a radical new X-Plane capable of vertical flight. Oh, and it looks like something straight out of science fiction.

DARPA says the program, dubbed the Vertical Takeoff and Landing Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane), is aiming to provide innovative cross-pollination between fixed-wing and rotary-wing technologies by developing and integrating novel subsystems to enable radical improvements in vertical and cruising flight capabilities. Put simply, it’s a versatile plane capable of taking off and landing just about anywhere.

In a major step forward, DARPA just awarded the Phase 2 contract for the plane to Aurora Flight Sciences, and added the (super-cool) codename LightningStrike. According to Foxtrot Alpha, the craft will feature “a pair of rear-mounted wings and two smaller canards” mounted on the nose. The craft will be powered by a Rolls Royce T406 turboshaft engine mounted inside the fuselage.

Though it's still in the early phases, researchers say the tech should be scaleable for larger and smaller craft, so the potential applications could range anywhere from military troop transport to (eventually even) commercial flights.

Check out some concept footage below and let us know what you think:

(Via Foxtrot Alpha)

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