The X-36 was a prototype aircraft tested and flown by
NASA in 1997. The X-36 was a 28 percent scale model aircraft
which was remotely piloted from the ground. I suppose
you could say it was the mother of all r/c aircraft.
The X-36 was developed to help test and prove the theory
of tailless aircraft design. The design used advanced
technologies to improve the maneuverability and survivability
of possible future fighter aircraft.
The X-36 was designed to fly without the traditional tail
surfaces common on most aircraft. Instead, a canard forward
of the wing was used as well as split ailerons and an
advanced thrust-vectoring nozzle for directional control.
The X-36 was unstable in both pitch and yaw axes, so an
advanced, single-channel digital fly-by-wire control system
(developed with some commercially available components)
was put in place to stabilize the aircraft.
Using a video camera mounted in the nose of the aircraft
and an onboard microphone, the X-36 was remotely controlled
by a pilot in a ground station virtual cockpit. A standard
fighter-type head-up display (HUD) and a moving-map representation
of the vehicle's position within the range in which it
flew provided excellent situational awareness for the
pilot. The use of a human pilot eliminated the need for
expensive and complex autonomous flight control systems
and the risks associated with their inability to deal
with unexpected situations.
The X-36 was considerably smaller than a piloted version
would have been. The wingspan was a mere 3 meters (10
ft) and fully fueled it weighed in at 566 kgs (1,250 lbs).
Top speed was 234 mph.
In total the X-36 made 31 flights, and accrued 15 hours
and 38 minutes of flight time. The maximum altitude achieved
was 6,157 meters (20,200 ft). NASA considered the X-36
program highly successful as it met or exceeded all project