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NASA's Latest Flight Project

 - May 19, 2007
Imagine a plane that will fly just like a bird: "no turbines or propellers, no flaps or rudders interrupting the smooth surface of the plane's flattened body as it emits barely a whisper as it sweeps past." Funded by NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, the plane (as envisioned by a group of researchers working on the project) would be unmanned, solar-powered, and made of strong, lightweight materials. Its size could range from a few meters across to perhaps a hundred meters, depending on its mission."

Why fly like a bird? One reason is energy efficiency. Because of the flapping wings, the aircraft would be able to glide for long periods of time and collect solar power and flapping to maintain altitude. Another reason is that this design, which has long been of interest, has morphing capabilities. Morphing wing technology would allow “military jets to outmaneuver their adversaries."

When can we expect this to become reality? So far this concept is only "in the minds of a small research team", however, with NASA's help we could see "this become a reality within a decade or two."