By Evan Ackerman
I knew it all along! The US Army is working on flying saucer technology! I just wouldn’t have predicted it to be a British import… Apparently the army has awarded a contract to a British firm JLN Labs to develop a machine that can demonstrate the ability to “hover close to its control-ground station, providing a surveillance capability for convoys, security force bases and other roles.” The design is pretty innovative, based on an aeronautical principle called the Coanda Effect.
Video, explanation and links, after the jump.
Basically, the Coanda Effect is the tendency of a fluid (air included) to stick to a curved surface, so that a small propeller can be mounted above a larger body, with the lift created by the propeller flowing around the body and thrusting down to provide lift. Adjustable fins on the side of the craft allow control. Currently, the large saucer is about 4ft in diameter, and designers are concentrating on optimizing the power, payload, and control system. Check out the video below:
So, you may be wondering how this is different from a $40 RC helicopter… In a nutshell, the big advantage is that it’s powered and controllable with an enclosed propeller that’s smaller than the diameter of the craft itself, meaning that it can be flown safely indoors and is resilient to crashing into walls and things (which is a big problem for indoor reconnaissance UAVs). Plus, no more accidental decapitations.