NASA Just Invented a Plane That Lands Like a Helicopter

It’s not full-size just yet, but it already looks incredibly cool.

One major advantage to helicopters is their ability to land in tight spaces. An advantage to an airplane, on the other hand, is their ability to go real fast, and cover a whole lot of ground. So what if there was one aircraft that could do both? Oh, and also it would be completely battery-powered. NASA would like you to say hello to Greased Lightning.

Greased Lightning, which, as you may have notice in the video, is quite small at the moment, is a project of NASA’s Langley Research Center. The rocket scientists over in Virginia have made a 10-engine remotely piloted aircraft, capable of changing its wings from vertical to horizontal angles and back again, all in the middle of a flight. The large-scale version will have a 20-foot wingspan and be able to carry one to four people

Currently the U.S. military uses hundreds of V-22 Ospreys around the world with similar tilt-rotor technology, but the aircraft has been surrounded by controversy and several crafts have failed, resulting in at least 36 fatalities.  

“We have a couple of options that this concept could be good for,”  Bill Fredericks, aerospace engineer for NASA, said in a press release. “It could be used for small package delivery or vertical take off and landing, long endurance surveillance for agriculture, mapping and other applications. A scaled up version—much larger than what we are testing now—would make also a great one to four person size personal air vehicle.”

Even NASA seems to get their best ideas from flying model airplanes, so all aspiring aerospace engineers out there should take heart (and ignore the people calling you a nerd).