Collin Arocho
3 September 2020

Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) has revealed the first successful test flight of the scaled model of KLM’s highly efficient Flying-V aircraft design. After extensive wind tunnel testing and numerous ground tests, a team of TU Delft researchers and engineers – together with a team from Airbus – took the at 22.5 kg, three-meter wide, model drone to a German airbase for its initial series of test flights to get first impressions of flight characteristics.

Flying V
Credit: Malcom Brown

During the tests, the team looked to successfully take off, fly a number of test maneuvers and approaches until the batteries were nearly drained, and then land safely. While the initial tests were a success, the team encountered several challenges. In fact, team members were forced to change the aircraft’s center of gravity and fix the antenna to improve telemetry. In all, rotation on take-off was performed easily and occurred at a speed of 80 km/h. The plane’s thrust was good and flight speeds and angles were as predicted. However, the flight did confirm that the current design still shows too much “Dutch roll,” causing a slightly rough landing.

“One of our worries was that the aircraft might have some difficulty lifting off since previous calculations had shown that ‘rotation’ could be an issue,” says project leader Roelof Vos. “The team optimized the scaled flight model to prevent the issue but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. You need to fly to know for sure.”