Meet the X-56A, the newest in a long line of experimental aircraft under the X-Plane banner. Designed by Lockheed Martin's Advanced Development Project, it's a drone designed for efficient flying via aeroservoelasticity—a ten-dollar term for responsive, flexible wings that conform to jet streams instead of breaking under stress.
The X-56A has a 28-foot wingspan and uses a series of wings, including three made of flexible materials and two using stiff-wing designs. NASA sees the lightweight, ultra-thin wing design as an essential technology for creating more efficient next-gen aircraft, and X-56A is meant as a testbed that will help NASA and the Air Force figure out how to incorporate the wings into the planes of the future.
NASA recently completed the first of eight Stiff Wing Controller Development flights. During the test, the 90-lb. aircraft flew to an altitude of 4,000 feet and a speed of 70 knots. This is the second X-56A—a prototype nicknamed "Fido" flew a test flight in 2013. The new one is called "Buckeye." Says :
Buckeye's initial flights will allow researchers to checkout aircraft systems, evaluate handling qualities, characterize and expand the airplane's performance envelope, and verify preflight predictions regarding aircraft behavior. The results will inform planning for the next phase of testing.