Aurora Flight Sciences will demonstrate a new electric aircraft that eliminates traditional control surfaces

Aurora Flight Sciences will demonstrate a new electric aircraft that eliminates traditional control surfaces

ARLINGTON, Va. – Aerospace designers at Aurora Flight Sciences Corp. in Manassas, Va., are turning to flight demonstration as part of a project to push the limits of future electric aircraft by eliminating flight controls like ailerons, rudders and flaps.

Officials at the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Virginia, last week announced a $42.2 million contract with Aurora to move into the second and third phases of the Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel project. Effectors (CRANE).

During this phase, electric aircraft experts from Aurora Flight Sciences will test components of the integrated subsystem, then perform the fabrication, assembly, ground testing and flight demonstration of an experimental CRANE electric aircraft. .

Last year, Aurora won a $12.4 million order to validate analytical forecasts, perform control loop analysis, and perform CRANE aircraft modeling verification. The company was awarded a $7.1 million DARPA CRANE contract in June 2020 to design configuration-independent designs, conduct geometric and technology business studies, and produce process documentation.

Related: Aurora plans to replace traditional electric aircraft control surfaces with actuators or effectors

Instead of using ailerons, rudders and flaps for the control surfaces of future electric aircraft, the CRANE project seeks to use actuators or effectors to add energy or momentum to the airflow above. above the plane.

Aurora engineers are trying to inject disruptive technology early in aircraft design with new flow control technologies and design tools. The idea is to configure and optimize an aircraft with active flow control to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of new commercial and military aircraft.

Passive control involves geometric modifications like vortex generators on an aircraft wing for flow separation control, or chevrons on an aircraft exhaust nozzle to attenuate noise. Passive control devices are always on, regardless of need or performance.

Active flow control, on the other hand, involves adding energy or momentum to the flow in a regulated manner. It is more desirable than passive control because aircraft pilots can turn it on or off as needed.

Related: Designers seek to define new flow control technologies to replace traditional aircraft control surfaces

Active Flow Control alters the aerodynamic flow field of the aircraft via mechanical actuators, or by ejection or suction on a wing, fuselage, intake or nozzle.

Effectors and actuators are generally the enabling technologies for active rate control, but they have been the weakest link in the development of active rate control technology. Despite their relatively high costs, effectors and actuators are generally lightweight, have no moving parts, and are energy efficient.

Aurora demonstrates a new active flow control on an X-aircraft, focusing on the best ways to develop and in-flight demonstrate their flow control technologies on an existing aircraft design or modification .

Related: Aurora Flight Sciences to Develop Active Flow Control to Alter Aerodynamic Qualities of Electric Aircraft

Project CRANE excludes large external moving surfaces such as ailerons, rudders, flaps, elevators and trim surfaces; mechanical engine jet exhaust guidance or other traditional mobile aerodynamic control devices.

CRANE’s goal is to demonstrate in flight that active flow control actuator technologies can maintain safe flight and provide quantifiable aircraft capabilities.

Upon this contact, Aurora will perform the work in Manassas, Virginia; Cambridge, Mass.; Charleston, South Carolina; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Huntsville, Mississippi; Saint Louis; Huntington Beach, California; Mesa, Arizona; Fort Worth, TX; National Harbor, Maryland; and Salt Lake City, and is expected to be completed in September 2025. For more information, contact Aurora Flight Sciences online at, or DARPA at -with-novel -effectors.

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