NASA researchers took a rather unique prototype aircraft for a spin last week: Greased Lightning, a 10-engine electric plane with rotating wings that allow it to take off and land like a helicopter. Vertical take-off and landing aircraft, or VTOL, are not a new idea, but this particular configuration sure is. The GL-10 has four engines on each wing and one on each tip of its rear stabilizer — that’s much different from the large, tilting rotors of the V-22 Osprey or the rotating jets on a Harrier.
The GL-10, with its 10-foot wingspan, was never meant to be large. Instead, it’s envisioned as fulfilling a drone-like role or perhaps carrying one to four people in a scaled-up future model. And because it’s battery-powered, it’s quiet.
It isn’t just that it’s quiet, it’s that electric motors are extremely reliable. I’d like to see this thing scaled up — but to carry 150 passengers, not four.
C’mon, science, shrink those batteries already.
I know that last line is mostly wishful thinking at this point, but check out Greased Lightning in action: