10 fastest unmanned planes in the world
With the maiden flight of Eviation’s first all-electric aircraft taking place recently, there is much excitement about the future of air travel. Humans have been obsessed with pushing the limits of airplanes ever since the Wright brothers made their first successful flight. In 1911, the fastest aircraft could reach just over 100 mph, and just over 100 years later, these speeds are easily reached just on takeoff.
Whether for scientific or military purposes, modern aircraft can reach extraordinary speeds. If the limitations of the human body are no longer taken into account, engineering solutions take very interesting paths to reach these incredible speeds.
The Eitan is operated by the Israeli Air Force and can fly up to a height of 45,000 feet. It also has a maximum payload weight of 2,700 kg. With a wingspan of 85 feet and a length of 45 feet, it can fly for up to 30 hours, which is impressive for a craft of this size.
The Eitan can fly at speeds of up to 407 km/h and has a range of 1,000 km. It was designed to conduct intelligence gathering, target acquisition, reconnaissance and surveillance missions over long distances with varying payloads, according to the IAI website.
Northrop Grumman X-47B UCAS
The X-47B is an unmanned combat aerial vehicle developed for use by the United States Navy. It is geared more towards use from aircraft carriers, and one of its unique uses is for aerial refueling (according to a Northrop Grumman datasheet).
It reached high subsonic speeds of around Mach -0.91 or 698 mph with a range of over 3,900 km. Its speed record was created during trials between 2011 and 2015. The X-47B was chosen from competition between Boeing and Lockheed, all trying to compete for the location of the Navy’s aerial refueling vehicle. The plane looks like something Batman would use in DC Comics.
The X-43 was an experimental scramjet aircraft developed by NASA. Unlike normal jet engines, which require a bulky oxidizer, the scramjet engine used supersonic air and fuel to propel itself.
At its top speed, the jet reached over 7,000 mph, nearly ten times the speed of sound. With just 10 seconds of scramjet engine thrust, the X-43 reached Mach 9.2 (per NASA). The X-43 had to be transported 100,000 feet by another aircraft before beginning its flight.
Boeing X-51 Waverider
The X-51 was officially designed for Mach testing to collect data as the aircraft reached hypersonic speeds. The X-51 program was jointly developed by NASA, Boeing, the US Air Force and DARPA. It also doesn’t hurt that the plane seems to be part of by James Bond arsenal.
The X-51 can reach speeds of up to 3,900 mph or Mach 5.1. The aircraft first flew in 2010 for over 370 seconds. It can also navigate at an altitude of 70,000 feet. Even though the aircraft was never intended for use in the field, the data collected by it helped to develop better and faster aircraft (according to the US Air Force).
Predator C Avenger
The Predator C Avenger was developed by General Atomics and was designed to perform covert intelligence gathering missions at high speed. He also has the ability to strike targets on land and sea.
With a flying ceiling of over 50,000 feet and a flight time of over 20 hours, the Predator C Avenger could reach speeds of 460 mph, which was a significant improvement over its predecessor, the Predator B (per General Atomics Aeronautical).
General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper
The MQ-9 Reaper, also known as Predator B, was developed by General Atomics for the US Air Force. The aircraft is capable of autonomous or ground-controlled flight and can carry a total payload of 1700 kg.
It can fly for up to 14 hours at a top speed of 300 mph, with a maximum service ceiling of 15,420 meters (per ArmedForces.eu). It also has a maximum range of 1900 km, which compares favorably to the fastest manned aircraft in the world.
HTV-2, or the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, was an attempt by DARPA to produce the world’s fastest atmospheric aircraft. During a test flight in 2011, the plane reached Mach 20, which is 20 times faster than the speed of sound or about 21,000 km/h (according to DARPA).
The aircraft flew for a total of 9 minutes and collected a lot of data that would help the agency develop other hypersonic aircraft.
The Boeing X-45, also known as “Elsie May”, was developed as the first autonomous unmanned combat aircraft and made its first flight on May 22, 2002. It could carry a total of 2,000 kg of payload and navigate at an altitude of 40,000 ft.
It had a maximum flight speed of 0.80 Mach or 987 km/h while being only 49 feet long and 49 feet wide. The X-45 also had a combat radius of 1,300 nautical miles (by Boeing).
Northrop Gumman RQ-4 Global Hawk
The Global Hawk RQ-4 was developed as a long-endurance machine, capable of flying more than 30 hours at high altitude. It could also provide real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance over a wide area.
Capable of flying at an altitude of 60,000 feet and carrying up to 1,360 kg, it could also fly at speeds of up to 735 km/h (according to the US Air Force). The RQ-4 had a wingspan of 140 feet.
BAYKAR Bayraktar TB2
The Bayraktar TB2 was developed by BAYKAR as a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) aircraft. It has logged over 500 flight hours and has been operational since 2014. It has an operational altitude of 18,000 feet and a maximum flight time of 27 hours.
It has a payload capacity of 150 kg and can carry up to 4 laser-guided smart rounds. The TB2 has a maximum height ceiling of 25,000 feet and a top speed of 120 knots or 222 km/h, according to BAYKAR.
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