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WHIRL-A-DRONE BEGINS TO SPIN

whirl1.jpg"Right now, it looks a lot like a Frisbee with four wings," the Wall Street Journal says. But, one day, this early prototype could become "an unmanned aircraft capable of hovering in the same spot for days at a time."The craft, known as the Whirl, is being designed at the "Bike Shop" -- a small, secretive development shop tucked away in a corner of Raytheon, the giant defense contractor."What makes the Whirl radical is the guidance system," the paper says. "Slow-speed propellers keep the aircraft spinning, and rudder-like airfoils at the tip of each wing generate thrust. They do that by acting as sails, adjusting to the wind so the Whirl can either fly downwind or tack into it. The wingtip sails and the electronic brains that operate wing flaps to keep the Whirl stable in high winds are innovations included in a U.S. patent application Raytheon filed in July."So far, a 20-foot wingspan model of the ship has hovered near the ceiling of a Raytheon hangar. But soon, the Whirl will be ready for open-air tests. "Then," the Journal notes, "the company will ask the Pentagon to finance the development of Whirls with enough fuel capacity to fly for four days."THERE'S MORE: New Scientist puts its spin on the Whirl drone here.AND MORE: "It may look like a combine-harvester," declares the Independent, "but a plane designed in a Tuscan farmhouse is being hailed as one of the great breakthroughs in aeronautical history. " Actually, to me the FanWing looks a little more like a helicopter with a giant razor blade attached. (Thanks to Defense Tech reader RC for the tip.)

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