Monday, 9 May 2011

Flat Spin

As a kid growing up in the space age, everything seemed to point towards a streamlined, fabulous sci-fi future. Immersing myself in toys, books, tv and films about space, it seemed natural that the 21st century would have sleek aerodynamic cars, planes would not look out of place in Thunderbirds and man would be living it up on the moon. Now, as I approach my own half century, I look around and wonder why cars are still mostly clumsy boxy things apart from the italian supercars gracing Top Gears test track, the space shuttle looks like a jumbo jet and the race for the moon appears to have turned into a fun run. Aerospace design seems to have stalled in its steep climb and flamed out into a flat spin.

However, every now and again something appears which seems to show a promise, however late, or the shape of things to come. The current darling of the armed forces, the UAV or unmanned aerial vehicle seems to be developing from the ungainly heath robinson rotor driven contraption through the current Predator drone which has too much of a saturday afternoon model airplane club look to it, to something befitting of the 21st century.


Boeing have been testing various species of airframe to develop a low visibility, stealth aircraft, starting with the piloted 'Bird of Prey' which had a streamlined body and distinct wings, to the latest version of the X-45 - aptly named the 'Phantom Ray' and unmanned drone airplane.


The blended wind and sleek delta shape look suitably sci-fi and the absence of canopy and inclusion of the subtle intake, make it look seriously sinister. Can we expect future aircraft to follow similar lines in other areas ?The superstreamlined aspect adds to fuel economy and increased performance, so the benefits wont just apply to the military. Maybe before I get into serious old age ill be able to look up and see silver delta shapes passing overhead instead of the nasty orange and white sleazyjet birds ?

2 comments:

  1. The car reminds me of a mix of Sam's car from Joe 90 and Del Boy's Reliant!

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  2. I think we've come to see those stealthy square shapes as being state-of-the-art, whereas back then I wouldn't have believed them even if somebody'd had the foresight to invent them as futuristic. That X-48B on the other hand looks like it could've been made by Meddings & co or drawn up by one of the TV-21 artists. That now has a lovely retro look to it (those external engine pods alone - yum!)

    ReplyDelete

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