This is the craziest airplane concept we've seen in a while, and NASA's reportedly throwing some cash at it. Its unusual design is meant to solve an aeronautical paradox: To get a heavy metal plane off of the ground, you need a wide wingspan (think B-29 bomber). But if you want to go supersonic, that wide wingspan becomes a liability, and you instead want a slimmer, more rocket-like form factor (think SR-71 Blackbird).
The "Supersonic bi-directional flying wing" has wings of alternating length at each compass point and therefore can solve both situations, by taking off in one orientation, then essentially flying sideways when it's time to go supersonic. I'd like to see video of how this happens in motion, but from what I can see in the stills, it looks like the dual engines up top determine the direction of flight, and that the rest of the plane rotates around them.
Led by researcher Gecheng Zha at the University of Miami, the SBiDir-FW concept now has $100,000 of NASA cash to play around with, and will get another half mil if early development work looks promising.
If the concept proves workable and gets built, I expect U.S. politicians to engage in sharp debate about whether the plane should initially turn towards the left or the right, in order to get this plane moving in the right direction.
A whole new way to get airsick?