Design / Exploration / Transportation

X-48B Blended Wing Body

Boeing and NASA

Today’s passenger jets all look the same: long tubes with two wings and a tail. Tomorrow’s jets could have the graceful silhouette of a manta ray. A partnership between Boeing, NASA, and the Air Force has produced a 500-pound, 21-foot-wide test vehicle. Currently in tele-operated flight-testing at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center inside Edwards Air Force Base, the new design is much quieter, more fuel efficient, and far roomier than today’s aero-tube. Recent advances like lightweight composite materials, fly-by-wire controls, and sophisticated flight systems have made building this type of aircraft feasible. Commercial versions have been proposed – imagine a 500-ton flying auditorium – but we predict something like the X-48B will debut as a U.S. military transport plane circa 2022.

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