Perching Autonomous Aircraft Perfects Prop Hang

MIT aerobaticists (if that's a word) have been perfecting the flight maneuver known as the "prop hang," in which the fuselage is completely vertical and the thrust from the propeller balance the entire weight of the aircraft.

In the video shown below, a small model plane takes off and lands from a vertical perch on a pillar; about half-way through, the plane levels out into zippy horizontal flight, completing several quick laps around the pillar.


(Perching aircraft perfects prop hang)

The "prop hang" is particularly challenging because all of the plane's controls come into play and shifting one requires changing the others to compensate. The propeller provides lift, while the flaps on the wings prevent the body from spinning, and the tail controls the aeroplane's horizontal position. "It's like a dolphin standing on its tail," says Jonathan How, MIT.

Personally, this gives me hope that one day spacecraft will be able to take off and land on their tails, just as God and Robert Heinlein intended.


(Artwork by Ed Emshwiller, 1953)

Read more about perching aircraft at NewScientist and MIT.

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