This Supersonic Concept Plane Rotates In Midair And Looks Like A Ninja Star

nasa miami supersonic jet sbidirfwThe SBiDir-FW in subsonic flight mode.

Photo: University of Miami

One problem facing supersonic aircraft is that the properties that make them fly efficiently at speeds greater than Mach 1 (the speed of sound, 761 mph) hurt their performance in subsonic flight.To overcome the issue, Ge-Cheng Zha, an aerospace engineer at the University of Miami, has developed a concept plane that would rotate in mid-air to take advantage of the best aerodynamics.

It will also eliminate the sonic boom that plagued the Concorde and led to widespread bans of supersonic flight over land.

Zha calls it the “SBiDir-FW,” for supersonic bi-directional flying wing, and received a $100,000 grant from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program earlier this month. The plane is symmetrical on both axes, with two cockpits.

When flying at subsonic speed, the plane is wider than it is long, with its wingtips folded up. To transition for supersonic flight, the tips unfold, and the engines lock into place while the plane rotates 90 degrees. No power system is needed: Aerodynamic forces drive the movement, “like a flying Frisbee,” according to Zha.

optimised for high-speed flight, the SBiDir-FW will create “virtually no sonic boom,” and minimize fuel consumption, according to Aviation Week. It will fly from New York to Tokyo in four hours.

Like most supersonic aircraft in the works, Zha’s concept is not expected to become a reality for 20 to 30 years. But it’s no fantasy: NASA awards the advanced technology concept grants based on “potential to transform future aerospace missions.”

For the next year, Zha and his team will study the basic feasibility of the SBiDir-FW, and will be eligible for a second, $500,000 grant based on their results.

nasa miami supersonic jet sbidirfwIn supersonic flight mode.

Photo: University of Miami

Now take a look at the 10 coolest aeroplanes and spaceships piloted by Neil Armstrong >

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.