Thursday, November 20, 2008

A submersible airplane

According to Layer 8 at Networkworld, this sounds like something straight out of a James Bond movie but no, it's real and it's your government: Those way out engineers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) want to build an aircraft that's as capable of zipping through the sky as it is underwater.

The agency's Submersible Aircraft research project is exploring the possibility of making an aircraft that can maneuver underwater with the goal of revolutionizing the US Department of Defense's ability to, for example, bring warfighters and equipment to coastal locations or enhance rescue operations. DARPA said that the concept being evaluated here is for a submersible aircraft, not a flying submarine. It is expected that the platform will spend the bulk of its time in the air and will only spend short periods of time submerged according to the agency.

According to DARPA: "The difficulty with developing such a craft come from the diametrically opposed requirements that exist for an airplane and a submarine. While the primary goal for airplane designers is to try and minimize weight, a submarine must be extremely heavy in order to submerge underwater. In addition, the flow conditions and the systems designed to control a submarine and an airplane are radically different, due to the order of magnitude difference in the densities of air and water."

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