The X-48C in its first flight in August 2012 (Credit: NASA/Carla Thomas )
The X-48C program is tied to NASA's Environmentally Responsible Aircraft project, which is geared toward developing futuristic airplanes that burn less fuel, spew fewer emissions, and make less noise.
The Boeing-designed X-48C has a radically different look than that of conventional aircraft. Where a big 747 or a little Cessna has the shape of a plus sign when viewed from above or below, with a wings sticking out as separate entities from a long, slender fuselage, the X-48C is essentially a seamless triangle in which there is no separation between wings and fuselage.
There's no tail structure, either. Hence the term "blended wing."
In the 30 flights since last August, the turbojet-powered, remotely piloted X-48C generally flew for about 30 minutes at a time, going as fast as 140 mph and flying as high as 10,000 feet or so, Boeing said. The scale model aircraft, build by Cranfield Aerospace, has a wingspan of a little more than than 20 feet and weighs about 500 pounds.
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