NASA’s Langley Research Center developed an inexpensive, long-endurance, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). It is capable of flying for 24 hours, landing in a 50 × 50 zone, and can be loaded into the back of a cargo van for easy transport. In addition, it can land in either a horizontal or vertical flight configuration.

The unique design of the aircraft enables VTOL capabilities. (Image: NASA/William J. Fredericks)

The vehicle can be used in any application where UAVs are needed to take off from, or land in, an unprepared landing area. Commercial applications where extended-mission UAV capabilities are beneficial include law enforcement, fire-fighting, crop surveys, pipeline surveys, or oil field management.

This VTOL aircraft is a modification of a conventional single-prop aircraft design. The addition of vertically oriented, stowable tail rotors and an articulating forward rotor capable of pivoting from a horizontal to vertical orientation enables VTOL capabilities. It combines the speed and fuel efficiency of fixed-wing aircraft with the hoverability and flexibility of rotary aircraft. The design is expected to avoid the compromises in performance that are typically made in development of VTOL aircraft.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact The Technology Gateway at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to initiate licensing discussions. Follow this link here for more information.